NROP: On why equality is more important than safety.

My bike stands near the door – in a corner by the window. Yes, I feel bad that I have not been using it nearly as often as I would like, but I hope that by positioning it by the window – I make up for my neglect even if only a tiny bit.

As I wrote that, I sighed. Should I add biking to a list of things I want to do regularly? Will that make me feel better or will it just aid in me pulling my hair out more often as I already struggle with finding time to do the basics? I chose not to write it down, but to make more of an effort to start biking at times when I am not drawn to do much else. Instead of zoning out in front of a movie I do not like, I might as well get some fresh-ish air and exercise.

My father taught me how to ride a bike on a gravel road in front of our family house. However, I was only allowed to practice in the yard, which meant navigating a walkway that had turns every five feet. Riding on the grass was off-limits.

On Sundays, we would go on longer bike rides as a family, and I really enjoyed those times. We would go exploring the nearest forests, creeks, mountains, and more. Even though I had a mountain bike, I did not really know how to use the gears to my advantage, which meant that we would bike to wherever we were going and then walk our bikes a bit. It allowed all of us to rest and enjoy the moment. Good times. Then, one day, my sibling – while riding on the top tube of my father’s bike – managed to get their leg too close to the wheel spokes and got their shin’s skin quite a bit scraped. They have the scar to this day. We stopped going for a while until my sibling got old enough to bike on their own. Sunday bike rides resumed and I was having a blast riding ahead and feeling free. One day, while running errands, my mother went flying over the handlebars. We think she squeezed the wrong break. She sprained her arm and I believe that was when we stopped going on adventures together. Two biking-related accidents were enough. Plus, back in the day when we went on our trips, we lived on the outskirts of town that did not have a lot of through traffic. That had later changed and riding a bike on a narrow street with cars driving as if they were on the highway became an extreme sport.

A few years ago, when I reawakened my desire to bike, I chose scenic routes with bike lanes away from car traffic. I was lucky to live in a city where those were present. You could ride and ride for miles, stopping only to rest and/or get your water bottle refilled. Sure, there were areas in which pedestrians insisted on walking in the middle of bike paths, but… you learned how to deal with that (either by taking deep breaths or scaring them to death by yelling ‘boo’ behind them).

While there were bike paths on some of the streets, I avoided taking those as much as I could because I was aware of the potential risk – too many crazy people out there and the risk of me getting critically injured was far greater there than on the path by the lake.

Where I currently live, dedicated bike paths are present but not as near to where I live as I am used to. Most of them are a car ride away, which I use as the most frequent excuse not to bike – I cannot bike for hours to get to a bike path and I cannot drive my bike in my car, so… For the time being, I bike in parks nearby. I can walk to those places, but biking makes it faster and I get to spend a little bit more time in nature once I get to where I am going.

As you read the above paragraphs, have you wondered if I wore a helmet?

Helmets are the topic of this post.

The answer is – no. I don’t remember my parents ever insisting on me wearing a helmet. They might have tried, but I think that in the end, we all agreed that we were careful, did not bike often enough, and stayed away from danger (i.e. cars). (We were all super relieved that my mother did not suffer a concussion when she had her bike accident. She was a tough cookie.) Are those solid reasons? Probably not, but they were good enough to me. I was never ‘hard-core’ enough to warrant a helmet.

Enough about me. Let us turn our attention towards Seattle – a city with a large population of regular cyclists. For decades, if you lived in Seattle and you biked, you had to wear a helmet. However, that has recently changed. And no – it is not because people took to the streets to protest that they were safe enough on their own. It was because the law was found discriminatory.

Are you raising your eyebrow like I did? Apparently, the law was deemed unfair to ‘people of color’ (That is a phrase the source article uses, but I am not sure if it is the ‘right’ one anymore…) and the homeless population.

All but one of the lawmakers agreed that the helmet law saved lives. However, they decided to put that (the reason why the law was established in the first place) aside and focus on a study that found what it was looking for. The results revealed that the law was not always enforced, but when it was – 40% of the situation between 2017 and 2019 were given to homeless people. After 2019, that number rose to 60%. Could it be because the homeless population in Seattle grew even more during that time? The study did not look into that, of course.

Another study found that African-Americans were four times as likely to receive a citation than Caucasians. Could it be that there are more African-Americans biking without a helmet in Seattle? We will never know because the study did not factor that in.

Critics of the law said that it appeared discriminatory, even though they acknowledged that there were some things missing from those studies that could contribute to the illusion of discrimination. Is it possible that more African-Americans biked recklessly? We will never know because the study did not look at that either. There is no helmet law where I live. I have seen people walk or bike into traffic quite a few times in my life. What is my observation when it comes to which race does so more frequently and dangerously? You would probably call me racist if I told you…

Additionally, I just want to remind you that not all studies are created equally. Sometimes, in order to get a full picture, you have to review a few. It is too easy to arrive at a specific conclusion if you already have one in mind before even constructing that study. In order for your research to be valuable, you need to go in with an open mind, ready to find things supporting your thesis as well as those that will contradict it. That kind of study article allows the reader to make up their own mind based on all of the arguments.

Do I think wearing a helmet should be the law? Not necessarily. But to say that wearing/not wearing a helmet is a race issue is a bit much. It seems to me that while there are some valid issues in this country and around the globe, the ‘discrimination’ answer has become a blanket one too easy to use, which might lessen its value (if it has not already…).

  • Do you wear a helmet when you ride a bike?
  • Do you think helmet-wearing should be regulated by law?
  • How do you call the Affrican-American population?
  • Do you think Seattle’s argument to abandon the law was valid?

Stay golden,

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58 thoughts on “NROP: On why equality is more important than safety.

Add yours

  1. I see a lot of people wearing a helmet while biking here in DK.
    It is simply incorporated in the culture, like putting on a seatbelt when you step in your car.

    I have spend a lot of my youth on a bike, since we didn’t have a car or a train station where I grew up.
    That includes the 16km ride to school, with a heavy backpack and a pretty shitty bike, no matter the weather. Looking cute was simply not an option due to sweating like a maniac. A helmet wouldn’t have made matters better.
    So I never wore a helmet nor ever will. Not in the countries where I have lived at least.
    But if people feel saver by wearing, I totally support it.

    The whole race thing seems silly to me.
    What is even the benefit of calculating the percentage of black people wearing a helmet against white people.
    Can’t we just all be “people” no matter the skin color?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Skandinavian countries are crazy about their biking and I know safety is important to them. It definitely is cultural – I agree.

      16km on a bike to and from school every day? That’s impressive. I think my highschool was about that distance away. Primary school about 1. And I still complained about walking there in the wintertime.

      I just feel like all these studies do is divide us into groups even more…

      Like

  2. Okaaaaaay
    I dont own a helmet, I never did… Here e don’t have any regulation for that and I don think it an issue that ever comes up, except maybe for those who do competitive extreme biking I doubt that I have seem anyone with a helmet on a bicycle….. Motorbikes on the other hand are another kettle of fish

    Cant recall if I have had occasion to specifically refer to the African-American population

    As for the law, hmm I think the reasoning behind it falls short, someone picked the low hanging fruit and unfortunately once plucked you cant put it back especially in this world were people go around with a “woke” culture

    ~B

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Did I know you were a cyclist? I don’t think so. How interesting. I don’t bike much anymore. I live at the bottom of a hill, at the bottom of another hill, at the bottom of a third hill.

    I assumed you wore a helmet. I wear one, my kids wear them too. It’s the law, but, when I was thirteen, I was hit by a car while bike riding and sustained a skull fracture. So, helmets 😊

    You make a great many good points about the flaws the Seattle council likely fell prey to. Seattle’s not far from me. I can probably pop down and give them a good poke about their boneheaded decision.

    I call black people “black people” if I need to make the distinction. Sometimes, I use “African American” if I know they’re American.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I would call myself a cyclist. I know how to pedal but that’s about it as far as my knowledge goes. Plus, I don’t do it often enough. But, when I do – it’s tons of fun.

      One thing that I miss these days are mountains. Many years ago, I used to live near some but I did not appreciate them then. Now… I long for them. The usual – we want what we can’t have – I imagine.

      Oops. See, that’s why I don’t bike around cars… But I’m glad to hear you are safe!

      Hahahah, I’m waiting for some ‘A Canadian woman inspired by an anonymous source online walks to Seattle and swats some lawmakers’ news coverage.

      You make a good point which I’m aware of but sometimes forget – not every black person in the US is an American, so we display ignorance by calling them African-American.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I never wore a helmet when biking either, and still don’t. I am SO SICK of all this CRAP and racial BS that is going on today. Everything is now racist. The other day, I read that now even eating a steak is considered racist. When will all this crap ever stop? I am a follower of MLK, and I believe in the content of the person’s character rather than the color of their skin.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Is this non-fiction??!! Yuck! (Just kidding – this is a joke based on a comment from another post). I grew up in the country side and did not wear a helmet during casual rides around my home but my family did do longer cycling rides on busy (for Vermont) roads and for those we all wore helmets.

    I think there are better ways than laws to encourage safe behaviors such as helmet wearing. In the case of the homeless, how about giving them a free helmet instead of a ticket? Or better yet, do something serious to solve the homelessness issue? I’m sure the lack of a helmet is the least of their safety issues.

    In the case of racial discrimination I don’t doubt that it comes into play. It seems to come into play in so many areas of our culture. But if you extend the logic of not having laws because they are enforced in discriminatory ways you would have to eliminate all laws for the most part…and it’s missing the point as to why are police (and other) behaving in discriminatory ways? Again, how about address the source of the issue?

    And why ignore the possibility that blacks do have a higher rate of not wearing helmets (or if not by % just by #)? Then their should be an education program that addresses the underlying reasons. Why do we think policing is the way to enforce these types of things? Because they generate income via ticketing? Or just because we are too lazy to understand the root cause? Or perhaps we are not interested in addressing the fundamental issues?

    Policing should be focused on true crimes. Behavior based public safety should not be their jurisdiction. That should be the job of the community – educators, religious institutions, community organizations, etc.

    I generally refer to the African American community as blacks, but if I’m talking in the context of black Americans specifically, then will use “African American”.

    I’v got my biases. I’m racist. We are all at some level. The question is not whether we are or not. The question is whether we acknowledge it and work to avoid discriminatory behaviors. The fear mongering that goes on about racism and being called a racist is not productive. It avoids the underlying issue.

    Stepping off my soap box now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hahahahha. Touche. Good one.

      See? Your comment has better ideas than the ‘experts.’ It is really unsettling to me when things like that happen…

      Supposedly, they are investing in buying helmets but I’m not sure how those would be distributed and if that would even make a dent in the population that needs it the most.

      “…If you extend the logic of not having laws because they are enforced in discriminatory ways you would have to eliminate all laws.” Good point. Sometimes, I feel that is where we’re heading, but then I realize that those laws are replaced by different laws and the cycle continues.

      Agreed. There are so many terrible crimes being committed every day and some of those cases are never solved or take forever often times due to lack of manpower. Well, if we could redestribute the manpower…

      That’s the thing – there are all sorts of different educators in a person’s life. Or at least there were back in my day. It seems like these days people are afraid to make a mistake so they bounce the education ball onto someone else. Plus, parents don’t want others to ‘parent’ their kids. Even if they don’t do so themselves…

      Absolutely – we are all biased in some way. It’s impossible to rid yourself of it. And not that you completely should, anyway.

      Thank you so much for jumping in with so many great thoughts! I appreciate your participation and feedback. Stay golden!

      Like

  6. I’ve been a bicycle rider since… well since I learned when I was about six years old. I’ve gone car-free both living in the city and off in the woods, but always had a bicycle (and sometimes a motorcycle as well). I’ve never worn a helmet for bicycle and only on motorcycle when it’s cold or rainy.

    Much like a seatbelt, I believe it should be up to the consumer/person what they want to wear while riding or driving.

    I’m also libertarian and believe the government doesn’t have the right to dictate such things.

    I also used to go rock climbing. I wore a harness (no helmet) and used ropes. It’s not required but I used them because I wanted to use them. I never needed the ropes or harness… but that’s how I prefer to climb (unless bouldering). I’ve used climbing shoes and gone barefoot.

    But like you mentioned, I do think their “reasons” behind the removal of the law are ridiculous. (Or as you said “a bit much”.) I don’t think the law should have been made to begin with, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. To no surprise of mine, it seems you’re quite the rebel.

      Going rock climbing barefoot just sounds painful… But I know it helps you connect better – literally and metaphorically.

      It’s interesting to hear how people’s opinions on such laws differ depending on whether these laws are enforced where they live and not. I’ve lived in places where walking 5ft to the left or right of the pedestrian crossing could get you a ticket for jaywalking and in places they could not care any less where yoi cross. It’s your body on the line not theirs. It’s one of the laws I find very strange.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I bike 5-7 days a week on roads and bike trails- this is Eugene, Oregon, we got it going on for riding bikes. I think the law is helmets for 15 years and younger, last I checked which was some time ago. I never wore a helmet for years. Then I read an article about someone who was bedridden with a brain injury from a bike accident and that did scare me. Now if I choose to not wear one or if I forget it (sometimes) inevitably someone I know sees me in town and then asks me WHERE IS YOUR HELMET?! And this is bothersome but I know it’s coming from a caring place. I wear mine about 80% of the time. It is black with an 8-Ball logo on the front. Helmets are much more fun in design than in the early years.
    Next question: do you wear a reflective vest? No. How about bike lights? Yes, front and back at nighttime.
    I have not thought about color or culture around biking. When I biked in Utah, many bikers (white) were those too poor for a car or those with DUIs. This was years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s pretty awesome that you get to bike that often. I’m not a big fan of bike paths on roads, but trails and away-from-roads paths are fantastic.

      Yes, I remember laws for helmets for young kids back in the day in some places.

      There are plenty of scary stories just like that…

      Absolutely! If I had a helmet, it would definitely be something ‘different.’ I remember discovering a store many years back that had all sorts of weird winter hats. I was enamored with that stuff.

      Reflective vest? No, as I bike during the day (not overcast/foggy days). However, I do have bike lights.

      Stay golden!

      Like

  8. Think biking draws blood? You should try learning to ride a unicycle on a gravel driveway. Good times. I choose to believe that the City of Seattle is run by a bunch of brilliant satirists who are trying to create the perfect parody city of everything that is wrong with America.

    Liked by 1 person

            1. Loved it. Usually we would have teams of 3 or 4. Collisions weren’t a problem. The one rule was, you couldn’t score if your feet were touching the ground. Also no putting your stick into someone’s spokes. The local gym allowed us on their hardwood floor.

              Liked by 1 person

  9. Interesting post Sam. To answer your questions, I don’t wear a helmet. Here the law requires helmet wearing for those under 18. I’m in the clear. Whether the law is enforced or not, I have no idea.
    As for laws based on studies, these are open to the interpreter and what end result is being sought. Leaving certain criteria out of the analysis is a common method.
    In regard to your question on racial identification, I personally think we as a human race need desperately to move beyond such shallow distinctions and focus more on the many problems we face as a human race. It will never happen because we are more attuned to seeing our differences rather than our similarities.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t think wearing helmets should be enforced by law in general — it’s something that affects (directly) only the person in question, so the way I figure, it’s a personal choice. But arguing that the law should be gotten rid of because the police mostly enforce it on homeless people and blacks? Umm… If there’s a problem there, it has nothing to do with the law.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “…affects (directly) only the person in question…” How about indirectly? If you drive a car and hit a person without a helmet and they die due to a head injury… I’d say you’re affected pretty directly.

      I don’t disagree with you. Just trying to play devil’s advocate. I haven’t done that in a while and I’ve begun to itch.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Heh, I get that. And you make a valid point. But then, it’s traumatic if a kid runs out into the road in front of you and gets hit. What can you do? Make it illegal for kids to be outside unless fenced in? You do what you can, but there’s a line, and past that there’s nothing you can do; a person’s fate is in their own hands.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. So, I’ve never worn a helmet while biking. I don’t have strong feelings on the subject, except that I’m more likely to endorse mandatory helmets for kids. Kids’ judgement lacks experience, and peers will dare them to do stupid stuff regardless. Maybe helmet laws will keep them safer on busy streets, which is where most of the danger is.

    I’m sick of bringing race into everything, although I don’t mind the result in this case. I do agree with the homeless caveat, though. It’s very hard to protect your possessions when you’re on the street, and if you make the only cheap transport illegal–well, I just think that group has enough problems without anyone adding to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. interesting post, Sam.

    it brings back memory of an econ class I took where the teacher and a student got into a debate/argument about whether motorcyclists should be required to wear a helmet. The professor was pro helmet, the student was against.

    the debate ended when the professor said that the one advantage of having a no-helmet law was that every time a motorcyclist died as a result of not wearing helmet, the average IQ of the population went up. It seemed a little harsh, but it did get a few laughs from the class…

    The student went on to start his own highly successful financial services firm; the professor was already a successful and well-known economist, Allan Meltzer…

    I don’t ride a bike, but if I did, I’d probably wear a helmet. It seems to have a potential upside, and I don’t know what the downside would be…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Downside? Your head overheating easily? Hard material etching into your brain if you ride for longer than 5 minutes…

      Thanks for sharing the story. I did laugh at the IQ part. Both successful, which goes to show that opinions can vary…

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The questions you raise at each point of this article are SO IMPORTANT to understanding what is really going on. Studies very often will come up with a label for a law or pattern (e.g. “discriminatory”) and then only examine data correlations that support that label. What they neglect to realize is that correlation DOES NOT EQUAL causation. It may very well be that a higher percentage of a certain ethnicity gets ticketed for a certain behavior– but like you said, does this tell us why? It doesn’t.

    It seems that the more productive use of research funds would be to examine the root cause of these discrepancies and try to address those, rather than just slapping a label on something as “discriminatory.” No doubt there are factors of bias, prejudice, or other unethical practices at work– but it is a lazy (and unhelpful) research practice to chalk every apparent discrepancy up to these things without solid evidence.

    As for the biking question, haha… I definitely was coerced to wear a helmet by my parents. Although as an adult I no longer have that obligation, I find the habit has been so ingrained into me that I probably wouldn’t feel safe biking without a helmet! But the thing is, helmet hair is almost irreparable… Once you stick that thing on, your hair day is totally down the tubes. Maybe one of these days my vanity will triumph over my safety instincts lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was pleased to see a comment from you! I know you’re busy, but it’s good to know you’re alive and well.

      Helmet hair. Right? The whole thing is just uncomfortable. It takes my mind off the beautiful things around me.

      Naming something as ‘racist’ has become the ‘easy way out’ these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Now I feel guilty of not riding my bike because of busyness at work. My bike is a stationary bike for persons with disability (like me). And I should ride it at least 3x a week but this past 2 weeks I didn’t even go to the room where it’s been.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Adelheid, you might want to change the link to your profile. Every time I click on your name it takes me to a page that doesn’t load. You might find that more people visit your blog once you correct that.

          That’s awesome to hear! Go you!

          Liked by 1 person

  15. Interesting post, I like how you pointed out the things that were NOT looked into regarding the study. How I feel is that it can get messy.

    Say you made it so people did not, by law, have to wear a helmet. But if a cyclist rode irresponsibly (as does happen) and gets hit by a car or even another cyclist and injures themself, they or their family could sue the other person – especially in situations were there weren’t any witnesses to see who was at fault.

    It’s the same with seatbelts – if you say no more seatbelts and 2 cars have an accident – no witnesses to confirm who’s at fault, but one party didn’t wear a seatbelt and was more injured than the other who did… could they sue? Probably. Could they win? With the way our system is, most likely.

    If you choose to not partake in a safety system, and get injured in a way that if you had partaken in that system it wouldn’t have happened or would have been greatly reduced – should you be allowed to sue?

    These are just the random thoughts that drift in my head.

    As to the discrimination, let’s be honest, those who enforce such laws with citations are certainly not above penalising, on a larger scale, POC and homeless people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to ‘see’ you, Ari!

      Your reply made me sad because it just shows how broken our society is. People don’t seem to take responsibility for their actions anymore and they prefer others to pay for their mistakes (ex.: suing).

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is exactly because of things like that that we should try to … fix is probably not a good word… improve? ourselves so that we can all live better lives instead of spiraling out of control more and more.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s it exactly! People don’t take responsibility. We should make sure people are given the tools to help and gain compensation from others if their actions cause injury through negligence etc.

        But we see people sueing for ridiculous reasons and winning! It makes you want to opt out of dealing with people in general!

        Liked by 1 person

  16. When I was a teen we lived in a small town and my friends and I would ride bikes all over town. We never wore helmets, and I don’t recall any accidents involving head injuries either. I do agree that the race card is being over played and it does weaken its value. I could easily see this being an issue of class as homeless and poor people probably would not be able to afford a helmet. Several years ago, in Michigan, the mandatory helmet law for motorcycles was repealed. It was all about freedom of choice. People know the dangers – riding without means you accept any consequences.

    Liked by 1 person

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