Banning kids on bikes

Portlanders are raging against a new piece of proposed Oregon legislation that would ban the transportation of children younger than six on bikes or in bicycle trailers.  Engaging this kind of prot0-fascist Nanny State thinking with reason  is a waste of time, so I won’t bother doing so.  Instead I ask the question, haven’t we brought this on ourselves?

"Ready for a safe relaxing ride in the Bakfiets, kids? Oh, Kevin, did you forget your flack vest in the house again?"

Anglo cyclists opened the door to the all out banning of kids on bikes on the day they bought into the culture of fear and bike helmets. One of the most innocent and healthy activities ever devised, cycling, has been made dangerous and fringe in the eyes of the public. Why? Because cycling advocates in the USA and Britain push helmets harder than anybody. The very standard bearers and champions of cycling have encased the heads of their families in foam. The precedent is set. Cycling is very dangerous. ‘You only get one brain” and other pithy simplifications spew forth from the lips of the “friends of cycling.”

It’s not hard to understand how a misguided legislator who is unfamiliar with cycling, one who is “for the children,” could reach the conclusion that young kids might as well just be banned from bikes and trailers, when virtually all cyclists wear the mark of an extreme risk taker: a cycling helmet. Look at the picture above from Oregon Live and ask yourself if this looks like a family out for a leisurely ride, or a family that is about to take part in some bizarre new sport called bike-chariot roller derby?

Also cited in the Oregon Live article is a spokesperson for Burley Design who, while obviously opposed to the legislation, sees it as an opportunity to strengthen the company’s market share by, instead of baning kids on bikes, mandating a regulatory safety standard for trailers that you can bet Burley’s products measure up to.  Similar to Bell’s support of mandatory helmet legislation in Australia, this proves that every unneeded regulation from the public sector will attract whorish bedfellows from the private sector in pursuit of profit.

I was warming to the idea of helmets as a choice and lowering my guard on the issue.  Now it appears that those of us who have not bought into the culture of fear must wake up.  Pandora’s box has been opened.  Cycling advocates that use fear and emotion to push a dangerous picture of cycling must be talked into a different tactic.  The future of a car free lifestyle for families with kids depends on it.

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2 responses to “Banning kids on bikes

  1. Yes, there is a strange reception of fear, and health and safety in Anglo-Saxon countries. Instead of identifying the real danger on roads, i.e. motorists, instead of calming that danger down with speed limits, even banning them from special home zones or installing proper cycling infrastructure like cycle lanes on roads (mandatory with clear solid lines) or off road cycle paths – people are forced to protect themselves with helmets. Not to be able to transport kids on a bike means you have to walk, bus or drive with every toddler. Very social towards people without cars. Or you have to drive: Good-bye to any concept of avoiding CO2-Emission, good-bye to any attempt of reducing the danger for cyclists (you are a motorist then), good-bye to any concept of reducing noise in urban areas, good-bye to the idea that kids might want to play out on their road (as we did when we were small). The car gets priority even more and cyclists (and their kids) are cheated under the banner of health and safety by forcing them under helmets or even banning kids from their parents’ bikes. Hallelujah, let us dance around the car….

  2. I politely disagree with your argument, while I agree that the legislation is silly and over-reach. But helmets are not the problem. Nor does that photo you feature show anything wrong. As a parent myself I believe that having your tot wear a helmet from their first biking experience is not (only) about protecting them from the unwanted dangers (including drivers with whom we bikers must share the road). Rather, it helps us teach our kids that helmets in many biking circumstances are life-saving. I watched my neighborhood friend get hit by a van at age 9 and was killed by the immediate impact – not with the car, but with the road. At age 9 in the 80s there was definitely no helmet. This alone is reason to ask my child to wear a helmet.

    And I will say this – my child loves her helmet! It makes her happy. She gets excited to put it on. Not because she sees it as a restriction to a joyous ride on a bike; but because it means we are going on a joyous ride on a bike.

    Your argument sounds all too familiar to those who argue against seat belt mandates, too. I don’t buy it.

    That all said, I love that you’re promoting biking with kids in the city (MSP). For the two years we lived there, our family (then 1-3 year old) biked as soon as the paths were clear of snow.

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