NACTO Statement re: Mandatory Helmet Laws

NTSB is getting a lot of pushback from its recent statement about bicycle safety on our roads.

In the NTSB’s first examination of bicyclist safety on U.S. roadways since its last report on this topic in 1972, the agency said critical changes were needed to address the recent rise in fatal bicycle crashes involving motor vehicles, even as overall traffic deaths fell in 2018. 

[…] The investigators’ primary focus was on crash avoidance, but in those instances when crashes do occur, they said the use of a helmet was the single most effective way for riders to reduce their chances of receiving a serious head injury. Because research shows that less than half of bicyclists wear helmets and that head injuries were the leading cause of bicyclist fatalities, the NTSB recommended that all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, require that all persons wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.

NTSB News Release 11/5/2019 NTSB Says Changes to Roadway Design, Collision Avoidance Systems, More Helmet Use Needed to Address Increase in Bicyclist Fatalities

Many people assume that bicycle helmets offer greater protection than they are actually designed to provide. Bicycle helmets are not currently designed for impacts as forceful as a vehicle crash. Bicycle helmets only offer minimal protection for a cyclist if falling say, off the bike and hitting the curb.  Bicycle helmets are not even designed nor tested for any kind of strength that would be necessary to withsand the impact from a vehicle. Even if bicycle helmets were designed as well as motorcycle helmets, dangerous drivers are still a huge problem, and cyclists as well as pedestrians are getting seriously injured and too often killed.

This is not Vision Zero.

Please read the NACTO statement in full where they discuss the Australian mandatory adult helmet law result data, which showed no safety improvement, and rather, the law discouraged bicycle riding.

For the first time since 1972, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) turned its attention to bicycle safety and released a series of recommendations to protect people on bikes on US streets. NACTO applauds the Board’s road design and bike infrastructure recommendations and renewed focus on this topic as cyclist fatalities in the US hit an 18-year high in 2018. However, a last-minute recommendation that states adopt mandatory helmet laws flies in the face of best practice on bicycle safety.

While requiring helmets may seem like an intuitive way to protect riders, the evidence doesn’t bear this out. Experience has shown that while bike helmets can be protective, bike helmet laws are not.

NACTO Statement ON NTSB Mandatory Helmet Laws

San Diego 2018 Pedestrian Fatalities Spike

San Diego pedestrian fatalities in 2018 were twice that of reported pedestrian fatalities in 2017.

The number of pedestrians killed by cars spiked last year to 34 up from 17 in 2017, according to numbers from the San Diego Police Department. Those severely hurt while crossing the street or using the sidewalk rose to 93 last year up from 75 in 2017, while serious injuries for bikers increased to 23, up from 19.


‘Fatal 15’ intersections overhauled as San Diego grapples with pedestrian death
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Pedestrian injuries and bicyclist injuries also increased in 2018.

San Diego also announced 15 of the most dangerous intersections with completed improvements under the Vision Zero Complete Streets goal of eliminating traffic-related fatalities and severe injuries by 2025. The San Diego Mayor also announced a new $2.45 million grant from CalTrans to improve hundreds of more intersections as well as work toward the complete streets goal.

“This is all about making it safer for everyone – drivers, pedestrians and cyclists – as they navigate city streets,” Mayor Faulconer said. “Making crosswalks more visible and adding audible walk signals are just a few of the simple yet effective ways we can make our neighborhoods safer. I look forward to installing these same safety improvements at hundreds more intersections over the next few years as we rebuild San Diego’s transportation network for the future.”


City Completes Safety Upgrades at 15 of San Diego’s Most Crash-Prone Intersection
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Mayor Faulconer Announces New Grant Funding to Bring Safety Improvements to Hundreds More Intersections as Part of ‘Vision Zero’ Plan to Reduce Accidents

It is a good time to remember Vision Zero since President’s Day apparently used to be Bicycle Day.

In Boston, cyclists used the public holiday to hold bicycle races before cheering throngs. Local bike stores opened their doors to entice the race-day crowds, bringing them in off the snowy streets to preview the pleasures of spring. February 22 soon marked the start of the season, the day on which bicycle retailers held open houses to show off their latest models to eager crowds. “Yesterday was bicycle day in Boston,” reported the Boston Globe in 1895.


When Presidents Day Was Bicycle Day
Long before Washington’s Birthday was marked by car sales, Americans celebrated their first president by pedaling.


But this recent story about a man in a wheel chair who was hit by cars 3 times in just 10 months really drives home the point of why we need to meet our Vision Zero goals.


Nearly 6,000  pedestrians in the United States were killed in traffic crashes in 2016, according to the latest data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Detroit Free Press, in a series called Death on foot, puts it this way: That’s twice the number of deaths tied directly to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


This man would like you to stop hitting him with cars

Don’t Door Me!

This is an excellent article not just about dooring accidents, but about bike lane design standards, how bicycle accidents are counted and how the system continues to implement design standards that are sub-standard.

Where Bike Lane Design Collides with Savvy Cycling

National and state databases only include crashes involving motor vehicles in transport. Since a parked car is not in transport, and a bicycle is not a motor vehicle, crashes where a bicyclist hits a parked car door are excluded.


Dooring accounts for 12 to 27 percent of urban car-bike collisions, making it one of the most common crash types.

Cyclists with iPods hear the same as motorists listening to nothing

Finally, researchers have asked the question and found that cyclists with iPods or earbuds on listening to music can actually hear more than drivers and passengers inside automobiles with the windows up listening to nothing.

“We quickly established that cars are remarkably soundproof. We measured the average peak of ambient traffic noise inside the car (with the motor running) to be 54dB, which is 26dB quieter than outside the car. We rang a bike bell right outside an open car window and measured it from in the car at 105dB. With the window closed, the same bell registered just 57dB.”


Ride On magazine of Australia

Here’s an article about this study which links to the original article.
Oz mag set out to find out if “iPod wearing zombies” heard more or less than motorists with their windows up or music playing.

BAD NEWS SHARROWS some infrastructure worse than none

From a study out of University of Colorado sharrows may actually do more harm for bicycle riders than good.

Some Bike Infrastructure Is Worse Than None at All

But far from giving cyclists a safer ride, or even doing nothing at all, sharrows might actually be doing some harm by tugging bikes into moving traffic. Some research has found they do reduce dooring (when the door of a parked car hits a cyclist). But only one study to date looked at whether or not sharrows had any impact on overall car-bike collisions—and that study found they could be increasing the risk of injury.

Walk Bike To Work Or School – Get Started

A Beginner’s Guide to Biking to Work

If that bicyclist whizzing by seems a little happier than the average gridlock-bound car commuter, you’re not imagining it: A recent study found that two-wheeled commuters were happier than their gas pedal-stomping, car-caged peers.

Becoming a bike commuter might seem daunting, but the benefits can be worth it: exercising regularly, saving money, decreasing your carbon footprint, absolving yourself of guilt over that break-room doughnut.

It is not just for adults – kids also benefit from walking or biking to school. For added safety, folks create walking busses or bike trains. October 10, 2018 was the national #WalkToSchoolDay but why not try to make that everyday?

Learn More: Safe Routes To School

In San Diego, join San Diego County Bicycle Coalition – advocates for bicycling in San Diego. Check out their group rides and other events.

Walk Bike Solana Beach – lots of good resources, see their bicycle map.

Bike San Diego – check out their calander for group rides and special events – like Taco Tuesdays.

Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals – San Diego

Interactive Map showing bicycle and walking routes in San Diego.

Getting started with some of these local bicycling and walking advocates is a great way to have fun and learn the ropes from folks happy to share.

Drivers, Look For Cyclists And Help Them Not Get Doored

Getting Doored for a cyclist is a very serious, even potentially deadly accident.

Bike Lanes are often placed too near parked cars, or as cyclists say, in the door zone. Cyclists are often boxed in a very narrow line of safety next to a busy lane of traffic while riding on the far outside of a bike lane to stay out of door zones.

Drivers, you can help. Start the “Dutch Reach” and teach your passengers to do the same.

Teach your friends and kids that bicycle to be aware of the danger of door zones too.

The Dutch Reach is a simple change in behavior, but it automatically puts your body in a position to be looking before opening your car door.

Fatal bike crashes are on the rise in the United States; in 2016 the highest number of cyclist deaths since 1991 was recorded. The research doesn’t say how many of those deaths are from doorings specifically, or how effective the Dutch Reach method is in preventing crashes, but a study done in 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, found that the car-to-cyclist crash type with the most injuries was doorings, said Kay Teschke, professor emeritus at the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Door Zone Bike Lanes

Not all bike lanes are good bike lanes.

Many bike lanes are just squeezed in on roads and in the gutter or door zones of parked vehicles.

Often, this only makes it more challenging to ride a bike because car drivers get incensed that the ungrateful bicycle riders are riding in a lane and not using the space designated to them.

Like Sharrows, not all bike lanes are improvements to roads for bicycle rider safety.

The intersection pictured above is a road on the border between Del Mar and Solana Beach and it made a recent list of the 50 worst roads in San Diego County. It seems to be even worse than reported as accidents are reported at this intersection for both Del Mar and Solana Beach, but not combined. The intersection is Highway 101 and Via De La Valle – when going South from Solana Beach. If one is traveling North from Del Mar, the intersection is Camino Del Mar and Via De La Valle. It is no wonder that this made the list of most dangerous roads in San Diego County, and we wonder if this intersection is even more dangerous than the data suggests.

The road and intersection are the border of fDel Mar and Solana Beach in san Diego County
This intersection in Solana Beach made a list of the 50 most dangerous roads for bicyclists in San Diego County. It might even be worse if the exact location of accidents was better known as we identified the same intersection reported both from Del Mar and from Solana Beach.

Bicycle Helmet Testing – IIHS & VA Tech

It’s about time that bicycle helmets got more rigorously tested, say, like motorcycle helmets have for years.

Bike helmets in the U.S. are required by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to pass a series of tests in which helmets are struck against an anvil at a set speed. The only requirement is that the helmets prevent head impact accelerations over 300 g, a level associated with skull fracture or severe brain injury. There is no requirement for helmets to limit concussion-level forces, which are more common among bicyclists in crashes.

A few take aways: more expensive isn’t better, more coverage isn’t better.

Perhaps surprisingly to some, the “urban” style helmets that look like they cover more of the head appear to provide less protection than the sleeker road helmets, the Virginia Tech team said.

The researchers found that bicycle helmets offered different types of protection. Not all bicycle helmets protected well against concussion. Bicycle helmets also may not protect adequately for the way cyclists often hit the ground at an angle. With cyclist fatalities up 20% in the last ten years, improving and formally testing bicycle helmets is a huge step forward.

Urban-style helmets — which have nearly solid covers with few vents — and those that haven’t adopted the latest anti-concussion technology were more than twice as likely to result in injuries, researchers from Virginia Tech and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found in a study released Tuesday.