Daily 49er

New bill demands helmets for all California cyclists

SB 192 seeks to make helmets a requirement for all cyclists, even those over the age of 18.

Bikes – Bike riders use the green lane on Covina Ave and 2nd Street in Long Beach on Tuesday.

Bikes – Bike riders use the green lane on Covina Ave and 2nd Street in Long Beach on Tuesday.

Will Theisen

Will Theisen

Bikes – Bike riders use the green lane on Covina Ave and 2nd Street in Long Beach on Tuesday.

Nicca Panggat, Contributing Writer

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Casual beach cyclists, people who ride to the grocery store and alternative commuters who bike long distances could soon be charged with a criminal offense for biking without a helmet.

Should Senate Bill 192 pass, all California cyclists would be required to wear helmets for their safety regardless of their age, according to the bill put forth by Sen. Carol Liu.

The proposed legislation cites that cyclists found in violation of the new requirement would be punishable by a fine of $25, which is the same fine that is charged to the guardians of young cyclists riding without helmets.

California’s bicycle helmet law has been in place since 1994. It states that helmets are only mandatory for cyclists who are under the legal age of 18.

“Any responsible bicycle rider should wear a helmet,” Liu said in a press release for SB 192. “This law will help protect more people and make sure all riders benefit from the head protection that a helmet provides.”

Any passengers riding on a bicycle or in an attached trailer would be held accountable under the same law and would be similarly required to wear helmets. The bill also says that cyclists must wear reflective clothing if they are out past dark.

California State University, Long Beach Cycling Vice President Emil Anastacio said he wears both a helmet and reflective gear when he rides.

Despite his efforts, he said he has been hit before; Anastacio said that last week, a car clipped his wheel.

“[Biking is] my thing,” Anastacio said. “Why won’t you wear [a helmet]? Chances are I’ll get hit one time. I still don’t really think they should regulate it at all.”

Anastacio said he rides for both leisure and work as a bicycle courier around Long Beach. He said having mandatory helmets for cyclists is not as important as having better infrastructure for people who bike.

“Most of the time, yeah it’s our fault,” Anastacio said. “There’s a lot of reckless cyclists out there. But I think if you just put them in their own place, it’ll definitely get a lot more safe.”

Riding out on Broadway Ave. with the dedicated left lane for cyclists is one of the places he said he feels safest. He said on Seventh Street, cars tend to respect his space a lot less.

According to a petition written by Ryan Price, the campaigns director of the California Bicycle Coalition, Liu’s bill sends the wrong message about bicycling and will produce the wrong result.

“It will discourage bicycling, making our streets less safe and Californians less healthy,” Price said. “We’re not against helmets. But there are proven ways to make our streets more safe while encouraging bicycling… A mandatory helmet law is not one of them.”

Price said that reducing speed limits on key streets, building protected bike lanes and bike paths and educating motorists and bicyclists on how to drive or ride safely would all be more beneficial to cyclists.

According to Liu’s press release, if SB 192 passes, California would be the first state to make helmets mandatory for adults.

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