While we’re on a libertarian bent at the moment, let’s take a minute to talk about City Councilman David Greenfield’s proposal last week to mandate that all bike riders wear helmets. Greenfield says the law is long-overdue and will go a long way to cutting down on the number of bikers who end up in emergency rooms. “Helmets save lives, plain and simple. It is common sense,” Grenfield said, according to the NYO. We would never dispute the fact that helmets are smart, and that the people who wear them are smart too. But, as Team Brokelyn has suffered any number of bike accidents in recent years (from Dave’s major wreck that put him in a wheelchair to my own endo-onto-the-sidewalk faceplant that resulted in a broken arm) some of us have a problem with the notion that bike helmets are a panacea to bike crash problems. Because you know what’s a bigger threat to bikers? Not unadorned heads, but CARS.
Bike helmet laws raise up my own repressed libertarian hackles for one reason: it’s only my own life I’m putting at risk by not wearing one. A smoking ban keeps you from polluting other people’s lungs, a trans-fat ban stops restaurants from unecessarily fattening you up on the sly, but not wearing a helmet only puts me at risk of taking my too-stupid-to-bike genes out of the Darwinian pool of humanity.
That’s why I say “spike it:” To argue that bike accidents will suddenly stop with a mandatory helmet law is some awful false logic. Because there will still be doors that open into bike lanes, still be speeding drivers, still be cabs in a rush that try to cut you off when you have the right of way, and still an overall sense by people in cars that they have the most right to use the roadways, even if they are the most wasteful, dangerous, largest and LOUDEST-FOR-GOD’S-SAKE-STOP-HONKING-YOUR-HORNS-AT-A RED-LIGHT-NO-ONE-IS-GOING-ANYWHERE thing on the roadways. With that in consideration, making helmet use mandatory sounds like if a building inspector came into your house, pointed out all the dangerous asbestos in the wall, and then required you to wear a toxic safety suit from now on.
What say you?