Bicycle smashup, of the regulatory sort

bikepostermichelinThe Bicycle Product Suppliers Association has played a role (PDF) in the fight against CPSIA’s (presumably inadvertent) ban on kids’ bicycles; it’s also been dealing with a controversy in the New Jersey legislature over a proposed ban on quick release wheels. But now the legal bills are coming due: “In fact, the expenses associated with these issues could ultimately surpass the association’s entire annual budget of approximately $100,000,” said BPSA president John Nedeau [Bicycle Retailer].


  • Banning quick-release wheels is just the first step towards making bicycles safer. Other steps that a proactive legislature could take would be to require seat belts, airbags (front, side and back would be ideal), seat backs with head restraints, protective clothing that covers all exposed skin to protect against falls, and real helmets with face shields like motorcyclists wear. An enclosing cage with real rollbars would be a good feature too. And maybe requiring all “bikes” to have three or, even better, four wheels would help, as it improves stability. And maybe drivers licenses for cyclists, and mandatory insurance. And we certainly should not allow anyone under 16 to operate a vehicle like this. Oh, and they should be equipped with signal lights and proper headlights and taillights so that motorists can see them easily. I think these are all modest first steps that would finally make cycling safe and enjoyable.

  • Years ago when the “mandatory helmet” laws for cyclists came into effect, a curious thing began to happen:

    More people (especially kids) were being injured on bikes.

    The LAW (League of American Wheelmen) commissioned a study on why the legislation was not preventing injuries.

    The conclusion was that people were wearing helmets as required by law, but they were not wearing them properly. People (especially kids) were wearing them too loosely, too far back on their heads, or without the chin straps fastened. Consequently, people thought they were protected by simply having a pot on their head and were doing more dangerous things on the bike. The result was more accidents and injuries in that improperly worn helmets are just as bad as no helmet at all.

    A further indication of the stupidity of this is that on Federal land (such as parks, military bases, etc) one must wear a helmet. I used to work as an indepdent contractor on a military base that was nearby and often would ride my bike to work sans helmet.

    Eventually I was stopped by the SP’s on the base. They told me I had to comply with the law and wear a helmet while riding the bike. The only problem with their request was that the law required that one wear a helmet that complied with ANSI III standards. The new helmet standards in place were ANSI V standards. The new helmets were safer, but the two standards were radically different on crush depths, size of helmets, and air vents. An ANSI V helmet was not the same as an ANSI III helmet.

    I pointed out to the SP that it was impossible to comply with the law as ANSI III helmets were not being sold anywhere.

    That got a corporal and finally a major out there to talk to me about the helmet. I had the specs and the law with me. In fact, one of the SP’s was on a bike wearing a helmet that was not ANSI III compliant.

    Looking back, I shouldn’t have pointed that out. The SP’s said that I had to wear a helmet and it didn’t matter what standards the helmet met.

    I got a ticket, went to court, showed the judge the law, the specs and had the case dismissed.

    I learned that the appearance of following the law is much more important to the system than actually following the letter and the intent of the law.

  • Thanks gitarcarver for your comment.

    When I was a kid a friend of mine went the front wheel of his bicycle and got banged up pretty good (with no lasting injury), so I had mixed feelings when bicycle helmets were mandated. They added considerably to the cost of supplying my step-grandchildren with their bicycles, but I wanted them to be reasonably safe.

    I thank gitarcarver for the datum that “More people (especially kids) were being injured on bikes, ” after the manatory helmet law was effectuated. That proves the law to be foolish.

    I understand that child safety seats also are expensive and almost worthless.