Bicycle helmets have been required by law in King County since the early 1990s — but that may soon end.
Against all odds, the county’s Board of Health could repeal the old law before the end of the year and replace it with an unenforceable resolution that says voluntary helmet use is encouraged.
Why would King County replace the helmet law with a mere resolution?
Essentially it comes down to this: The helmet law is being enforced in an uneven manner. According to a recent analysis, roughly half of all the citations issued to cyclists without helmets were issued to members of the homeless population.
In addition, the safety group called Seattle Neighborhood Greenways determined that Black riders were being issued citations almost four times as often as white riders.
This unequal distribution of tickets continued even as a bikeshare program — which is wildly popular in Seattle and throughout the county — became popular. The bikeshare program, which offers bike rentals similar to the way that LimeWire and other companies offer scooters for rent, doesn’t come with helmets, so many riders who use that service should, theoretically, also be ticketed.
This is disturbing news because helmets really do save lives. The vast majority of the 80,000 cyclists who end up in an emergency room every year have brain injuries, and bike helmets reduce the risk of a serious injury by 50% or more. Most adults, however, will eschew them unless they’re required by law.
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