Does Mr. Fedora need a helmet?

He’s riding a trike at perhaps 5 MPH on a street empty of motor vehicle traffic through downtown Santa Cruz, CA. California Assembly member Carol Liu continues to believe he needs a helmet for safety. Should her bill, SB 192, become law, Mr Fedora on the trike will become subject to citation and fines.

Santa Cruz Bike People

Ms. Liu and other helmet advocates no doubt have people like professional cyclist Alison Starnes in mind, shown here taking a corner during a Cat 1/2/3 criterium race at perhaps 30 MPH.

Alison Starnes Tibco

Cyclists like Starnes already wear a helmet. They take greater risks by going fast or by riding in challenging conditions, so they mitigate the risks inherent in this style of riding by wearing protection gear.

Mr. Fedora on the trike is not a rare, corner case. I think he probably represents the majority of everyday cyclists in California who cruise at a reasonable speed to get wherever.

Maybe Ms. Liu and other helmet endorsers have another type of cyclist in mind: people who add to their risk by riding dangerously, like this guy going against the flow of traffic.

Wrong way roundabout

Surely Ms. Liu doesn’t believe this salmon will magically become a safer cyclist just by donning a helmet, does she?

Earlier today, the California Association of Bicycle sent their letter opposing SB 192. It reads in part:

Bicycle helmets certainly may contribute to safety in a crash or fall, but represent only the final area of protection when all other safety measures fail.

We do applaud and appreciate your concern and do support effective efforts to reduce bicycling collision injuries and fatalities that also promote Active Transportation – healthier, enjoyable, cleaner, and more sustainable travel choices for Californians.

You can read the full letter at CABO: CABO opposing helmet requirement.


  1. Well, yes, I often do see cyclists with helmets operating safely and cyclists without helmets operating unsafely. It just stands to reason that wearing a helmet will make you drive better.
    Also, have you noticed that fashion models are usually attractive people. Based on the above logic, I’m getting a job as a fashion model to make myself more attractive.

  2. I’m pretty disappointing in CABO’s argument, or lack of one. The most convincing argument I have heard is that helmet mandates reduce participation, and reduced participation reduces safety for all. These both appear to be well supported by data. Therefore the overall outcome is likely a higher fatality rate with the helmet mandate, not a reduced one, due to the unintended consequences. The default position should be to ‘do no harm’, unless they are absolutely sure of the ‘overall’ outcome including unintended consequences, because they are playing with the lives of many people, including those already wearing helmets.

  3. I love that the CABO letter offers better solutions and more specifically emphasizes education of both cyclists and motorists. One of my beefs with the DMV is not just that they don’t have a Bicyclist’s Manual, but that the section that they (finally) added on bicycling in the Driver’s Manual simply regurgitates the letter of the law and does nothing to address a very popular misconception: that a bicyclist is allowed to “take a lane meant for a car” (to quote a recent YouTube comment I replied to) – even when a bicycle lane is present. The DMV also has no bicycling-related questions on any of their practice tests (or final that I took a few years ago). OK, that’s three beefs. Throw in the lack of a cycling-specific license plate (like the “Share the Road” plates in other states) to make it an even four.

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