On March 8, a California state senator proposed a law that would make California the first state to require all adult bike riders, age 18 and above, to wear helmets.
It has ignited controversy between personal choice and the government deciding for us.
As an avid bike rider, I can understand the need for safety while bike riding, especially on the bustling streets of Orange County. Too many times have I been told the story of bikers who weren’t wearing helmets, getting hit by a car and suffering traumatic injuries, sometimes impairing the biker.
Even I have had my fair share of bicycle collisions while not wearing a helmet. Thankfully, I was not seriously injured, but I still continue to ride without a helmet because that is my choice.
As it should be with everyone else. By requiring that everyone in California wears a helmet, and citing them a $25 base fine if they don’t, is an intrusion on our own personal freedom and doesn’t actually solve the problem of bike safety.
Instead of trying to control how we should ride, the government should focus on making roads more bike-friendly. In the Netherlands, bike roads are everywhere and there is no law requiring the use of a helmet. It is so abundant that biking tours are given across its cities.
In September, California passed a law that would require cars to give cyclists a 3-foot buffer zone while passing. This does help with safety but it doesn’t benefit drivers at all. Building roads and paths strictly for cyclists is the most beneficial for everyone.
Even a study conducted by a University of Bath researcher, Ian Walker, found that cars would give more space to cyclists with no helmet than one with a helmet. What does this mean? It seems that drivers see cyclists with no helmets as more reckless and likely to make sudden moves unlike bikers with helmets.
Yes, I know that wearing a helmet will save my life, but if I want to be reckless, let me be reckless. I know my life is in danger every time I don’t wear a helmet but it’s my personal choice to decide when I should. I shouldn’t have to pay money for putting my own life in danger.
And what about all the people with skateboards, scooters and the occasional rollerblades? Those can be just as dangerous as biking but almost none of them are being required to wear a helmet.
The government may care for my safety but why must they push so far into my life and ban not wearing a helmet over other things that can kill us, such as alcohol, cigarettes or cars in general.
As for all those Chapman students who live close to campus and bike to class, who is really going wear a helmet for two blocks? It looks terrible, it messes up your hair and you’re such a short distance away it becomes almost tedious. But if you were caught, you would be fined nonetheless.
There is evidence on both sides, however, to support and deny the use of helmets, but why must I be punished for something that only puts myself in danger?