“The law and public education around the creation of the law helped change behaviors and norms,” McDermott said. “And 30 years later, it’s critical that we reassess our goals when we passed the helmet law and the unintended consequences of putting it in place.”
According to a study, the wearing of a helmet in the city reaches 91% among private cyclists. In nearby Portland, Oregon, repeal advocates noted, usage is also high, despite the city not having a helmet law for all ages.
Access to helmets is a particular challenge for people on low incomes: according to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, people in the lowest income bracket were about half as likely to wear helmets for all trips than people in the highest income bracket. .
But Mr McDermott said he doubted those disparities explained the extent of the rule’s disproportionate application. And he said the county could address the disparities without police: The county recently earmarked more than $200,000 to buy helmets and expand bike safety education.
Across the country, other types of bicycle regulations have also been found to be applied in a discriminatory manner.
In Chicago, a study found that tickets were issued to cyclists eight times more often in the city’s predominantly black neighborhoods. A US Department of Justice investigation found that 73% of bike stops in Tampa, Florida between 2014 and 2015 involved black cyclists, despite the fact that black people made up 26% of the population.
“The data revealed that stops did not reduce crime or produce other positive outcomes,” such as reduced bicycle crashes or injuries, the report said.
“The best investment in keeping people on bikes safe is in creating safe streets and safer transportation systems,” said Bill Nesper, director of the League of American Bicyclists. “These are the kinds of investments that will allow people to walk and cycle safely in our communities, instead of investing in laws like this that could be a barrier for cyclists and could be applied in a discretionary and discriminatory manner.”