On Tuesday, the House Environmental Matters Subcommittee heard public testimony on House Bill 339 in Annapolis. HB 339 (Protective Gear for Cyclists) mandates that all cyclists, regardless of age, must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.
During the testimony time, Delegate Maggie McIntosh, who claims to unwind from the legislative session by going on a long distance bike ride, said she thought of this bill while driving down St. Paul Street, noting that someone using the bike lane wasn’t wearing a helmet. With the delegate was Dr. Mayur Narayan, Director for the Center for Injury Prevention and Policy and Nancy Floreen, Montgomery County Council member. While the goal of this legislation is well intended for cyclists’ safety, the emotional testimony for the bill was countered with well documented, well researched arguments. The three testifying for the bill vacated the room before multiple counter arguments were made.
Motorcycle advocacy group ABATE (“American Bikers Against Totalitarian Enactments”): “Adults are responsible for their own actions. Current laws are adequate for protecting children, but do not apply them to adults.”
Shane Farthing, executive director of WABA (Washington Area Bicyclist Association): “Maryland will have bigger problems [obesity, increased traffic congestion] when cycling is undermined.”
Jim Titus, WABA: “Following the logic of this bill: With pedestrians deaths being 15 times higher than cyclists death, should we require pedestrians to wear body armor?”
Penny Troutner, owner of Light Street Cycles: “This bill continues to place safety responsibility all on the cyclist, not the drivers. And it will subject minorities to unfair treatment by police.”
Nate Evans, bike coordinator: “In study after study, the only factor that consistently contributes to cyclists safety is the presence of more cyclists. Even as Baltimore has experienced a 50% increase in bike commuter traffic, helmet use has remained constant, yet there have been no fatal incidents in 2 years.”
Joshua Rohrer: “I ride a bike everywhere I go, but this law is inconsistent with my religion as a helmet interferes with my head covering.”
Even with solid research presented to the Environmental Matters committee for review, Delegate McIntosh continues to support HB 339, as noted in the letter above. Should this bill receive a favorable review from the committee, HB 339 will return to the House of Delegates for a vote.