Back-Seat Driver

Bill would require helmets for adults cycling in California

A bicycle rider mixes with pedestrians on a L Street sidewalk next to Capitol Park in downtown Sacramento creating a potentially dangerous situation on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 in Sacramento.
A bicycle rider mixes with pedestrians on a L Street sidewalk next to Capitol Park in downtown Sacramento creating a potentially dangerous situation on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 in Sacramento. Sacramento

A California state senator introduced legislation this week that would require all bicyclists to wear helmets. State bicycling advocates wasted no time in saying they think that’s a bad idea.

Sen. Carol Liu’s new bill, SB 192, also would require cyclists to wear reflective clothing when cycling at night. The fine for noncompliance would be $25.

“Any responsible bicycle rider should wear a helmet,” she said in a press statement. “This law will help protect more people and make sure all riders benefit from the head protection that a helmet provides.”

Speaking to The Sacramento Bee, she added, “This should not be a big deal. It is kind of a common-sense deal.”

California is one of many states that have mandatory helmet laws in place for riders under age 18. But it appears California would be the first to extend that to adults, if Liu’s measure can pedal through a traffic jam of opposition. Liu said she has not tested her bill’s viability among bicyclists, health officials or law enforcement advocates but that she will do that soon.

Dave Snyder, head of the California Bicycle Coalition, said he’ll tell her he thinks it’s a bad idea born of good intentions. “We know that the most important thing to protect people who ride bikes is to get more people out there riding bikes,” he said. “Forcing people to wear crash helmets when they ride is counterproductive to that goal” because it will discourage some people from cycling.

Jim Brown of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates said he’s seen studies that motorists tend to drive closer to cyclists wearing helmets, and give non-helmeted cyclists wider berth. He’d rather see governments build more dedicated bike lanes, also called cycling tracks, that separate cyclists from cars on busy streets.

Sacramento transportation planners are studying the possibility of building a separated, two-way bike path on North 12th Street to give cyclists an easier north-south entrance and exit from downtown.

Meanwhile, the Liu bill will be interesting to watch.

Airport tram shutdowns

Reader Andy Tim wants to know: Is the airport shutting down one of the two automated people mover shuttles more frequently? He’s referring to the short trams that take fliers from Terminal B to the north concourse building.

Yes. They’ve been shutting one of the two trams down certain hours daily since they first went into operation in 2011, but are doing it more frequently now, usually during slow hours between 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., as part of a cost-cutting program, officials say. The airport has been struggling financially since its big expansion in 2011, which included the $30 million people mover.

Spokeswoman Laurie Slothower says the shutdowns will save an estimated $300,000 a year. Officials monitor the trams and start the second one up if the crowds get too heavy.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

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