Wolfson: Sponsor of Mandatory Helmet Bill Is No Friend of Cyclists

In case you missed it yesterday, City Council Member David Greenfield was bombarded in the Twitterverse after the Wall Street Journal reported that he plans to introduce a mandatory bike helmet law. (Streetsblog joined the fray with enthusiasm.)

Renowned bike safety advocate David Greenfield thinks all cyclists should be required to have licenses and wear helmets. Photo: ##http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/33/52/all_hydrantfollowup_2010_17_12_bk.html##Brooklyn Paper##

City Hall is also having none of it. Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson shot down the helmet law idea at a presser yesterday, noting that Greenfield — best known for haplessly trying to squeeze free parking from every conceivable inch of curbside space — has opposed measures to improve cyclist safety. (In addition to mandatory helmet use, Greenfield is a fan of mandatory licensing for cyclists.)

Kate Hinds at Transportation Nation has the deputy mayor’s full remarks on the subject. Enjoy:

First of all, there’s no other major city in the country that has a mandatory bike helmet law, and there’s a reason why. The thing that actually saves the lives of cyclists is protecting them from drivers, which we have done more in this city than any other city in America. It’s why our fatalities are down in this city, accident fatalities are down to an all-time low. So we are making enormous progress in keeping cyclists alive.

I understand there is a council person who has promulgated this. He is not a friend of bicyclists. He is against bike lanes. So I’m not going to take — and this administration is not going to take advice on protecting cyclists from somebody who has consistently been against the things that saves the lives of cyclists. As somebody who bikes to work nearly every day, I can tell you what saves the lives of cyclists. It’s separating cyclists from cars. And we’ve done more of that in this city than any other city in America. We’re going to keep doing that, we’re going to keep driving down fatalities, we’ve been successful at it. We’re not going to take advice from people who aren’t actually on the side of cyclist safety.

While there are some parts of the world that have helmet laws — notably Australia and portions of the Pacific Northwest — none of them have the kind of mainstream bike culture that prevails in cities without helmet laws, like Berlin or Copenhagen, where cycling is exceptionally safe. Helmet laws are becoming even scarcer as more cities adopt public bike systems. Mexico City and Tel Aviv recently jettisoned their laws in conjunction with launching bike-share.

After a couple of years in the council, Greenfield has established his specialty: proposing bills that serve no real purpose other than capturing the attention of the press. It looks like he’s going to milk this moment for all it’s worth too, but hopefully the rest of the City Council won’t opt to make NYC a global embarrassment by giving this bill a second look.

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