Helmet Law for Everybody (in NYC)

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sloaps
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Reposting at woohoo speed from teh bike snawb is a WSJ article about a new helmet law introduced to NYC council.

For ensuing discussion: I often do and do not wear helmets.


rsprake
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I love that Greenfield wants a mandatory helmet law, but is against the soda ban.


jonawebb
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Well, it’s easy to get a flame war started, but let me say this. I always wear a helmet and think everyone should wear one. It is quite possible to endure life-ending injuries without one, with a simple fall from a bike, not even going that fast, and without a car involved. I myself missed a turn, hit a curb, and woke up in the ER — my helmet cracked absorbing the impact which would have certainly caused serious brain damage.

But (as a result of previous discussion) I do not think mandatory laws are a good idea. Basically, mandatory laws discourage riding bikes and, on the whole, there is probably a greater health benefit to helmetless people riding bikes and getting exercise than people driving cars because they don’t own a helmet or don’t like how it makes them look or messes up their hair.


salty
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I wear a helmet too but honestly it is only a tiny exaggeration to say no one in the Netherlands wears one. People out riding recreationally on road bikes do generally wear helmets but in the cities people don’t ride road bikes and helmet use is under 1% in my estimation. Seeing that changed my mind a lot.


Pierce
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+1 on European helmet use

They’re not all brain damaged over there


Tabby
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my thoughts are:

1) European non helmet use is different due to lower overall travel speeds and more upright bicycles, where if you fall you would probably be more likely to jump off the bike than hit your head. Not to mention of course the general better car driver safety.

2)New York is testing legislating a lot of things that make it really interesting to watch what happens. I’m just enjoying seeing the results. Would be better to actually conduct research studies, but baring that it’s fun to see what happens in the wild when you ban all sorts of foods and behaviors.


orionz06
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Not a fan but this is typical NYC.


ieverhart
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I’ll offer the semi-obvious observation that this would make the new bike sharing system about to go live in New York City much less useful. I am very diligent about always wearing a helmet when riding my own bike in Pittsburgh, but I would be very inclined to go without on a short visit to New York while riding one of the Mike Bikes (à la Boris Bikes) for a few short, under-30-minute rides.


HiddenVariable
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one wonders if maybe that is the point.


ejwme
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hmm… I could see a couple work-arounds for a bike share program to include an adjustable helmet with the rental, hygiene would take some thought but isn’t impossible to maintain. I’m not sure I can attribute enough sneakiness to anti-bike people to really believe that the helmet rule is an attempt to kill bike share. I think it’s just poor communication/coordination between groups trying to improve life in NYC.

I like the soda ban. Lots of people, myself included, are crappy at making good decisions about food (the bad decisions can be so delicious), and the FDA hasn’t been terribly helpful in that particular area. But I’m not a big soda fan. If they banned something I’m particularly keen on, like riding my bike, I’d undoubtedly be comparably irked. But if they banned the never-ending bread sticks at Olive Garden, I’d almost be happy. Too yummy to be good.


Anonymous #

@ieverhart & ejwme: There was another thread in which some lame-brained op-ed writer bemoaned how the DC bike share has supposedly been a complete bust. So I think it’s reasonable that a NYC politician heard that sentiment, along with wealthy bike haters complaining about the bike lanes and decided the politically expedient thing to do would be the one thing that seems to universally create a barrier to casual cycling.

Ultimately, I don’t see how we can reconcile calling this country “the land of the free” while simultaneously banning people from making such personal choices as what they eat and wear. But I’m going to stop myself before I get too political with this post.

TL;DR I think the promotion of an NYC mandatory helmet law is a political move against casual cycling, and therefore, against the bikeshare.


buffalo buffalo
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> I’ll offer the semi-obvious observation that this would make the new bike sharing system about to go live in New York City much less useful.

> one wonders if maybe that is the point.

That was my thought as well.

Another story I saw about this had a line from some deputy mayor or other mentioning that Greenfield has fought against bike lanes and assorted other things Bloomberg’s done that “actually help bikers” (or something to that effect) and making just about this same suggestion…


ejwme
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awe, man. I was just hoping I was not jaded. Well, poop on them, then.

I’m still not sure what harm a ban on sodas larger than the human stomach (intended for a single human in a single sitting) would do, but I’m sure someone will think of something that freedom is necessary for.


Anonymous #

@ejwme I like the soda ban. Lots of people, myself included, are crappy at making good decisions about food

How we can let people to vote? :) Are they going to do better decisions about politicians? Should we ban people from voting too many times?


Anonymous #

“Well, poop on them, then.” There’s that scat talk again.

The soda ban, like any nanny-state law, is about restricting personal freedom. If someone wants to consume a literacola in one sitting, that should be their prerogative. It doesn’t harm me or anyone else, so why should I care.

To poorly paraphrase Thomas Jefferson: what your neighbor does doesn’t affect you, so shut up about it already.

Dammit, I went and got political. I was having such a productive day, too.


edmonds59
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I’m kind of on board with Sherman about the soda ban.

NYC banned trans-fats in foods some time ago, I can see the justification for that – it’s an “invisible” ingredient that you can’t identify once it’s in the food, and the average person isn’t aware of what the heck it is and the harmful effects, so an “expert” government agency needs to step in for the public good.

But if you’re going to sit down and drink a bucket-o’ soda, you pretty much know what you’re doing.


rsprake
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Right, and I think you know what you’re doing when you hop on a bicycle without a helmet or drive a car without a seat belt.


PghDragonMan
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You can’t legislate against stupidity.

My opinion of helmet laws: If you don’t have anything to protect, you don’t need a helmet.

As for the soda size ban, see line 1. What’s to stop someone from stopping at three or four different places and slamming smaller sizes?

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!


Pierce
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If our rising obesity rate is any indication, it does harm them. If access to affordable health care is valuable to you, it harms you. I’m pretty sure obesity related illnesses like diabetes are the largest contributor to the increase health care costs


ejwme
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+lots to what Pierce said.

what other people do DOES affect me, and everybody who pays taxes or is part of society. as just one example, it costs more for a healthcare system (any system, current, proposed, old, any of them) to handle the poor health decisions with delayed consequences. It’s those delayed consequences that make the better decisions so difficult AND affect everybody else.

We’re wired to love sugars and fats, but we’ve managed to figure out a way to make available and affordable a harmful amount of them. Until we figure out a way to educate the populace effectively to regularly make better decisions than our obesity epidemic indicates we’re making, banning the sale as a single serving more liquid than a human stomach can hold with more sugar than a healthy pancreas can sustainably process seems like a good idea to me.

There’s a whole mess of things out there that are illegal that one could argue shouldn’t be, and vice versa. Inconsistencies in political theory, practicality, science, and the laws of the land aren’t a good argument for either side of the debate, so I’m not entertaining them. I’m just looking at the soda ban.

The helmet law, while it is likewise a restriction on personal freedoms (most laws are), I only object to the proposed motives, and am unsure where I stand on the law itself. Helmet law because helmets could save lives (note, didn’t say would, not arguing that point) = admirable no matter how misplaced (goal is to save lives). Helmet law because somebody wants to kill a bike share program = horrid, even if they coincidentally could save lives (goal was to kill bikes/transit options).


Anonymous #

@Pierce so we should ban TV, the Internet, airplanes, cars and make mandatory run/bike 2/20 miles for everybody exactly a 4:00 am every morning. :)

I think increased life expectancy has more to do with health care cost than obesity at the moment.


ejwme
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orionz06
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I agree with Sherman, on a few accounts. If someone wants to ride without a helmet they will, if they want a gallon of pop they will get it. Fat people will be fat until they make the appropriate lifestyle changes. Making them less likely to exercise via the helmet thing is not gonna help.


ejwme
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Mikhail, reductio ad absurdum doesn’t work.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum

And no, it’s not due to increased life expectancy, though yes, most of an individuals’ health costs are in the last six months of life or so.


Anonymous #

ejwme yes, it works. It just shows that there is no objective line where to stop. Notice, that those laws were made by some individuals and not by voting. So it comes to the point that law could be imposed on people because someone (or group) just can do it.

About life expectancy. Cost of health care steadily increasing after 40. Look at life insurance rates. It just sky-rockets after 60-65.


Anonymous #

If my choice to drink a 5000 calorie milkshake for breakfast is affecting your access to affordable healthcare, then that’s evidence that the healthcare system is broken, not the fast food menu system.

In regards to ANY nanny-state laws, I will always be on the side of personal freedom. As long as what I’m doing doesn’t directly affect you, then I don’t see much reason to legislate against my actions.

I also think the money and resources it will take to enforce freedom-restricting laws would be better spent on educating people about how and why to make better choices for their personal health. An informed public would, presumably, be a healthier public (though maybe not for some politicians).


edmonds59
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I find it impossible to believe that preventing vendors from selling 20 oz sodas will have any impact whatsoever on reducing obesity, diabetes, or health care costs in society.

It seems like a politically expedient and non-challenging throw-away move, as in “what rational person would feel it necesary to drink a 20 oz soda?” Who’s going to argue that’s necesary?

re: “An informed public would, presumably, be a healthier public…” The public has been battered by information regarding the hazards of smoking for 30+ some years, know how many morons I still see smoking? I have zero belief in the ability of an educated public to do what is in it’s own best interest. Jefferson was just completely naive in that regard.


rsprake
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There are lots of things in this world that are bad for us when over consumed. Red meat, alcohol, the sun. I am sure the mayor wouldn’t want someone telling him what size steak he could order at dinner.


Steven
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In the US the smoking rate today is half what it was in 1965. Efforts to curb smoking have been pretty effective. I’ve read that the most effective method has been taxing it. Making it more expensive reduces demand better than any other method.

Trying to get people to cut back on sugary drinks makes some sense, but banning Big Gulps may or may not be a good approach.

As to personal freedom, in a world of advertising, sometimes it works out to be the right of corporations to profit from peoples’ weaknesses.


StuInMcCandless
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The other bit of info in this is that NYC was shelling out $4 billion a year on health care costs. Elsewhere I’ve read that 14% of all health care costs are due to Type II diabetes, much of which stems from obesity, most of which stems from caloric overconsumption, so, yeah, they have a reason to want to get to the root of the problem.

A few of us are old enough to remember when McD’s ran an ad campaign touting a whole meal for $1: A burger was 40 cents, fries 25 cents, a drink was 35 cents. The size of that drink at the time was 8 oz. Drinks came in 8, 10, and 12 oz sizes, i.e., small, medium, and large.

We only got “super sized” drinks because fast food companies figured out they could sell double the quantities or better, and charge accordingly. Hence, we got fat because of their greed.

No, I don’t have any problem at all of NYC controlling the max size of a drink. If you’re all that thirsty, buy a second drink. Problem solved.


Anonymous #

“we got fat because of their greed.”

No. Just no.

We got fat because of lack of self-control. You could make a reasonable argument that ignorance of the nutritional value of the food in question came into play, but you can’t pass all of the blame onto “those evil corporations.” A persons actions have consequences, no matter how much we try to forget that fact.

If NYC, or any government body, wants to improve the cost of and access to healthcare, they should be focused on why it’s so expensive in the first place. Why does med school require an aspiring MD to mortgage 10-15 years of their life? Why are hospital stays so costly? Why are pharmaceutical companies charging so much for their products? These questions need to be addressed before we start spending more taxpayer money on the food police.

I have no problem spending money to try to promote a healthier society, but I have a major problem with using insurance costs to justify telling me what I can and can’t buy at a restaurant. If I’m spending my own hard-earned money, what right does anyone have to tell me how I can or can’t spend it? You can encourage me to make the “right” choice, but that choice should ultimately be mine.

And I’ve heard the argument that “the more people that have to be treated for ____ the higher everyone’s insurance rates will be; so your choice does affect me” and that’s why I think the healthcare system is broken. De-coupling my actions from the cost of your healthcare should be the first priority when it comes to healthcare reform, not enacting more restrictions to basic freedoms.


Anonymous #

I’m going to try and make this my last post on the topic.

What if, instead of spending money enforcing a new law, the NYC government tried to offer some incentive to restaurant owners to offer “healthier” sized drinks? Think about it: restaurants could increase profits by simply reducing the size of their beverages while leaving the prices the same. That should be incentive enough to sell smaller drinks, and it avoids enacting more pointless legislation. It’s win-win.


Pierce
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Really? Your personal freedoms are being infringed upon because of what size soda you can buy?

Nothing is preventing you from buying two sodas, three sodas or four sodas. There’s something to be said about what is offered is what is bought. People are constantly offered unhealthy portions, is it a surprise they buy unhealthy portions?

What’s so infringing about limiting access to harmful products? Perhaps we should put cigarette machines in high schools and allow cola companies to put vending machines at every playground.

To place responsibility solely on the consumer is to deny any responsibility on the companies that push this crap. If they had no influence on consumers, why do you think they spend billions on advertising?


sloaps
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Eliminate corn subsidies for corn syrup production and apply a fat tax to everything in the soda and snacks aisle – except tostidos scoops. Don’t touch my scoops.

Isnt there a motorcycle helmet law in NY?


Anonymous #

“I’m going to try and make this my last post on the topic.”

I knew this wouldn’t work.

Yes, personal choice and therefore freedom is absolutely infringed upon by the government when a law is passed that restricts what I can and can’t buy. It’s a pretty basic principle, and I’m surprised that you seem to be confused by it.

“What’s so infringing about limiting access to harmful products? Perhaps we should put cigarette machines in high schools and allow cola companies to put vending machines at every playground.”

That is an absurd twist into what was previously a rational argument. Minors, by definition, are not capable of deciding what’s best for them. That’s why they have guardians.

As for buying multiple sodas, do you really think that loophole will stay open if the law goes through? What guarantee is there that it will? And then there’s still the matter of paying to enforce this absurd law.

The bottom line here, is that it doesn’t matter how minor the choice may seem, it should always be your choice to make. You should have access to the information you need to make an informed decision, but it should always be your decision.


melange396
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do an image search for ‘canadian cigarette warning labels’ (with safe search turned off). those pictures must cause some people to think twice about continuing to smoke.

so: put gruesome advisories on the side of soda cans, and add a tax that can be used to subsidize helmet prices. problems solved!

@sloaps: there is a mandatory motorcycle helmet law in ny. when i lived there, i saw plenty of people ignore that law, fwiw


rsprake
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Eliminate corn subsidies for corn syrup production and apply a fat tax to everything in the soda and snacks aisle

+1

They can eliminate all of the subsidies while they’re at it.


Mick
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It really angered me when I worked in a children’s hospital and the smallest soda available was a 20 oz.

I think there are some better ways to deal with this than making large sodas illegal, though.

One is just making sure that if they sell large sodas small ones are available. Another is to end government subsidies for corn, so the price of corn syrup will rise considerably.


salty
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Pierce
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@JaySherman

“Minors, by definition, are not capable of deciding what’s best for them. That’s why they have guardians.”

Is this sarcasm? It seems to imply that A) adults do what’s best for them (and their kids?) and B) that parents can somehow control what their kid does at school all day or has access too

Again, it’s not limiting what you can buy, it’s modifying how the item is bought

I guess you support everybody being able to buy extended magazines for automatic pistols, automatic rifles, etc. Wouldn’t want old uncle sam infringing upon your rights to own weapons?

Sugar and soda are FUCKING ADDICTING. People can see their unhealthy, can hardly walk, and they can’t stay away from it. It’s a physical and physiological addiction.

All rationality and logic goes out the window. That food is designed to get people coming back, unfulfilled, etc

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