Friday, June 16, 2006

Bicycle helmet law under consideration in Austin

From the Austin Centrist, the City Council has been requested to consider a helmet law for bikers in Austin. I wholeheartedly agree with the Centrist argument in principle. But I've also heard that emergency-room overcrowding has become an enormous issue in the U.S., and I wonder where Austin's ER capacity stands? My question then is: if people decide to consciously risk their lives, do these preventable traumas warrant less attention in the ER? Is there an argument for the helmet law aside from wanting to protect people from themselves?

I'm all for any and all personal rights to the extent that they don't impact the lives of others. But to me it's a gray area any time personal decisions directly cross over into other people's lives. What are your thoughts?


Mike said...

Bike helmets aren't working in actual practice - they're not like seatbelts, which actually do work, and they discourage people from riding their bikes, which makes us all worse off overall.

More here:

Texas Hippie said...

Thanks for the links from your blog, I'll dig into that a bit more to get up to speed, so to speak.

Handy Fuse said...

Require adequate insurance to cover the cost of the ER, extended hospitalization, protracted rehab and/or burial and let 'er rip.

Texas Hippie said...

Handy Fuse - thanks for the post. The concern I have with this is when you compare it to required driver's insurance. By the time you're in an accident with someone who has no insurance, it's too late to find a way to extract money out of them if they're broke. That's why people often have "uninsured motorist insurance". Fortunately the police have a way to enforce insurance coverage through routine traffic stops (non-damaging stops such as speeding violations). Repeat offenders may have their car towed or receive fines that result in jail time if not paid.

Bicyclists however don't have an equivalent "routine stop" that allows an officer to run a background check for adequate coverage. The only time this would be checked is in the result of an accident, and ERs are stuck with the dilemma of operating on someone who can't pay (a common problem for which they don't want to take on any larger burden). Ironically, it's often the folks with no money who will sue if the ER doesn't try to save the person's life, since handsome rewards from legal action has become the new American Dream.

So I think that this idea is too idealistic, though I appreciate the attempt to tie personal freedoms to personal responsibilities. If people would take more personal responsibility, so many other problems would be solved too.

D'Amico said...

Liability insurance doesn't cover squat. The costs to taxpayers for auto-related injuries is astronomical compared to bicycles. This whole "cost to taxpayers" argument is nonsense. Maybe we should start pulling over auto drivers and passengers and making sure they have extensive health coverage? Yeah right, dream on.

Yes, the idea of a helmet law is absurd. Check out why at We had a great rally last night with a bicycle helmet fashion show. Bruce Todd, the key promoter of the law and former mayor, told Fox 7 TV news that we should be ashamed of ourselves for mocking helmets. We actually spent most of the time praising helmets. Helmets Good. Helmet Law bad. Public hearing on this ill-conceived idea is still on for Thursday, Aug. 24 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, even though they don't even have a draft of the ordinance change public yet!

Texas Hippie said...

Thanks D'Amico. I've posted a new entry on this subject with additional thoughts.