One thing we forgot to note that we learned from today’s ride was that the helmet law in Dallas is no longer being enforced. We’d been told by a few others about this recently, but received official confirmation during the ride from uniformed officers who joined us in the Dallas Bikes to City Hall event. Apparently, the original law was put in place as an excuse to stop potential drug traffickers. According to the officer, someone challenged the constitutionality of the law, and the city decided to drop enforcement to avoid any potential lawsuits. You’ll notice from the video of our ride, we’re lead into City Hall by several officers, and a handful of the riders who joined are helmet-less.
I, for one, am opposed to helmet laws for adults. I feel it should be a choice, though I can understand for people who ride for sport. But for the casual rider, who averages 8 mph, I see it as a detraction to riding. There’s a reason why Copenhagen’s ridership is higher than 50%, and very few wear helmets, while accident rates are decimal point levels. They can increase the perception of risk which inevitably lowers ridership. Children are another story, although I’m even conflicted here, as most of us who are adults now rode for miles with all of our friends from the ages of 5 to 15 without helmets. Perhaps the reason ridership among children dropped from 40% in the 1970’s to under 10% now can be correlated to the trend in requiring head gear. Our parents simply never thought of it…now it’s the first thing we demand. In the end, physically separated bicycle infrastructure would ease my mind in allowing my children to ride without helmets, but as long as they have to travel on the roadways with cars, I can’t abide the risk.
Here’s a video of Dutch children commuting to school with physically separated paths, and without helmets: