New York City is a safer place to ride that it was five years ago, even still, current Mayor Michael Bloomberg is caught in a firestorm among riders in the Big Apple for allegedly suggesting that separated bike lanes are more important than bicycle helmets.
Currently, New York City only requires helmets for those riders 14 years old and younger.
The backlash started earlier this month when the Mayor shot down a call for a mandatory bike helmet law, which was seen by some in the city to be a strange move, especially given that Bloomberg is responsible for his push to ban the sale of soft drinks in sizes larger than 16 ounces. Some have questioned why the Mayor would champion one so-called “nanny state” law while opposing another.
Moreover, Bloomberg, who was a billionaire media mogul before running for mayor in 2001, has a philanthropy program, which reportedly provides helmets to motorcycle and scooter riders. But instead of even providing helmets to cyclists in New York, Bloomberg has stressed the need for separate bicycle lanes. “The most important thing we can do is separate bicycles lanes from traffic, and that’s one of the things we’re really trying to do,” the Mayor told reporters while speaking at the Montefiore Medical Center about the dangers of obesity.
The proposal that would require all New York City cyclists to wear helmets was proposed in May by Councilman David Greenfield, who said in a statement, “This is the simplest thing a cyclists can do to protect themselves. To do anything else is frankly irresponsible.”
Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson fired back suggesting, “the best way to protect cyclist is to avoid accidents in the first place, and you do that with more bike lanes.”
Those lanes could be a bit more crowded however, as the Mayor also defended the upcoming bike share program that will reportedly add about 10,000 bikes to the mean streets of the city that never sleeps. “It’s New York,” Bloomberg told reporters. “Ten thousand is a trivial number.”
Local cyclists have praised the bike share program, and Ellen Jaffe, president of the New York Cycle Club previously told BikeRadar. “This will inevitably make New York City a much more bike friendly town.”
However she even she seemed confused by this strange debate over helmets versus bike lanes. Wouldn’t encouraging the use of helmets, while supporting bike lanes be the best option? “Helmets are regarded as essential equipment at NYCC,” Jaffe added. “You can’t do an NYCC ride without one.”
But Jaffe doesn’t think encouraging the use of helmets outweighs the need for bike lanes. “As you must know, there is growing use of the bike lanes as the infrastructure is built,” she added.
And while he never actually spoke out against helmets per say, when asked by a reporter whether a mandatory helmet law could actually discourage cycling, Bloomberg only continued his push for the lanes. Unfortunately for cyclists in New York it appears that they’re being told what is best for them while no one is actually asking them what they want.