The problem with Nassau County's new helmet law

Part 1 of 2 articles addressing new Nassau County laws reinforcing car culture.

County Executive Laura Curran quietly signed a helmet bill into law on October 23rd with an Approval Memorandum that states:  


“I support the expansion of the existing child helmet safety law to cover young people under age eighteen using bicycles, motorized bicycles foot-powered or motorized scooters, skateboards or in-line skates. This is necessary and appropriate legislation to guard children and teenagers from head and brain injuries when engaging in these recreational activities. Requiring our young residents to wear a bicycle helmet that meets applicable standards will promote the development of good personal safety habits to last a lifetime.” You know what would also guard kids from head and brain injuries? Protected bike lanes and laws that hold drivers accountable for their actions.  

The premise of the helmet bill is that young persons riding bicycles, scooters, skateboards, or skates are at risk of sustaining serious injury due to falls occurring while the operator is riding at high speed, that incidence of serious injuries are reduced by the wearing of safety and helmets, and that a helmet law is in the public interest.  Tickets will be given to the parents of those under 16 years of age not strapped into certified helmets. Unhatted 16-17 yr old offenders must answer their ticket or summons in court.

The problem with this is strapped hat laws strengthen the false narrative that bicycles are a dangerous. There has been documented decrease in ridership in new hat law locations- and we know that a huge chunk of our safety and strengths come in our numbers. The more cyclists there are, the more other road users will consider them. Strong arguments have been made that helmet laws don’t work and do more harm than good. We buy that.

Wear a helmet if you got one - we don’t really care about the hat so much as the distraction and insulting existence of this law in a County that captures 1/3 of bicycle deaths in the state. It’s not the lack of helmets, dummies - it’s the lack of safe access for cyclists and a car culture that refuses to hold reckless drivers accountable.

This helmet law is lazy legislating. Period. Not one drop of data was used for this. Does any Legislator know how many people on these riding devices under the age of 18yrs have been killed or sustained brain injuries because they weren’t wearing a helmet this year - or how about in the past ten years? No, nor do they care.

If Legislators did care about brain injury prevention in persons under 18 years old, they would haven’t been distracted by the non epidemic of kids on small rolling things and would have been focused on actual laws with teeth to ensure kids are being forced to share space with speeding SUV’s whizzing inches away from their bodies. How about you give us three feet? Pass a 3-feet amendment to the Safe Passing law - and then enforce it. campaign campaign

We expect and demand better from our County leaders than insulting hat laws with arbitrary ages that aim to curb personal behavior while traveling >10mph versus curbing behavior of drivers commandeering oversized vehicles while distracted, drunk and through school zones. This car culture bullshit is killing us and all our legislators can do is strap hats on us- which is exactly what we need at this very moment to protect us from bashing our heads against a wall. Seriously.

County Executive, next time consider consulting with one of the bicycle advocacy groups on Long Island before being distracted by this hat nonsense. We know what we need to keep us and our children safe while cycling, scootering or skating on Long Island streets and parks- it’s not this.