"Maybe if everyone wore a helmet, I wouldn't look so silly."
Everytime I tell myself to refrain from open politics on this blog, along comes a topic that just screams out for a rebuttal. And, while my rebuttal to a popular topic at hand may not amount to any kind of world-shattering change, it sure feels good to get it off of my chest. So, why do I bring this subject up? Well, in case people were too busy to notice what is going on in the California State Legislature, which is probably 98% of the State’s population, there is a small battle waging, which will eventually escalate into a Public Relations skirmish. Allow me to explain.
State Senator Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge) has introduced S.B. 192, which would mandate helmet use on every bicyclist in the State of California, regardless of age, (under-18 is already mandatory), plus require reflective clothing while riding at night. Her argument is as follows: “Any responsible bicycle rider should wear a helmet,” said Liu, Chair of the Senate Education Committee. “This law will help protect more people and make sure all riders benefit from the head protection that a helmet provides.” And, she is right. However, as for what constitutes “Responsible” and “Reflective,” and who gets to define both terms, has not yet been explained. Additionally, the bill completely ignores mention of body protection below the neck.
So, what part of the bill has “Cycling Advocates” spilling their mineral water’s and lattes? Is it the mandatory helmet portion of the bill? No. Is it the high conspicuity clothing provision of the bill? No. What put the nail on the saddle of those opposed to S.B. 192 is the State of California has no business mandating how they should live their lives. And, you know what? Folks opposed to the bill are 100% correct. The downside of their argument; that horse left the barn a long time ago. True, in a free society, this kind of Nanny-State thinking should have been killed at the source, however, in State after State, and in case after case, personal liberty and personal choice has lost out to the “It Takes a Village” cabal, everytime.
Meanwhile, the leading opposition to S.B. 192 is coming from an unlikely source; your friendly, neighborhood Bicycle Collation. Yes, the same people leading the charge to make our roads “Bicycle Safe” are against an actual bicycle safety measure. While the hypocrisy is plain for all to see, their opposition, as previously stated, does make some sense, even though it is doomed to miserable failure. And, I personally understand their opposition to this proposed piece of legislation. However, the arguments against S.B. 192 are as tired, and ineffective, as they are old. While the intention, and rationality of those opposed are common sense sound, the overwhelming mountain of case precedent overriding their emotional opposition amounts to a hill of nothing in Sacramento. The extent of over-reaching restrictions of the free exercise of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness the State of California has heaped upon its citizens to date is massive. So, while I am happy to see organized opposition to SB192, I have to question the integrity, and timing, of the various “Bicycle Advocates/Coalitions” leading the campaign to see the bill go down in flames.
Consider the plea for support on the defeat of S.B. 192 from Ryan Price, Administrative Director, California Bicycle Coalition:
“Please join us in asking the Senator to take the next step: scrap the helmet mandate, and instead focus on measures that protect bicyclists and promote bicycling.”
Talk about nonsense. Basically, what Mr. Price is advocating is that while he, and his coalition(s), are all for the safety of cyclists in the State of California, he (they) only supports policies he (they) personally agree with. Not too sound of an argument when you are attempting to sway opinion and rally people to your cause. But wait, there’s more! Also from Mr. Price:
“There are proven ways to make our streets safer while encouraging bicycling -- 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, to name a few. A mandatory helmet law is not one of them.”
Talk about a flim-flam! If this is the argument being set forth as reasons to defeat S.B. 192, then I actually have a few questions for Mr. Price and the various “Coalitions” supposedly speaking for the cyclist in me:
Where were bicycle coalitions when mandatory seat belt laws were put into effect? Where were bicycle coalitions when child safety seats were being mandated? Where were bicycle coalitions when mandatory auto insurance laws were out into effect? Additionally, where were these very same bicycle coalitions when a tax (fee) was introduced to park on (so one could ride on), and visit, Public Lands? Not aware of the former? It’s innocuously known as the “Adventure Pass.” And, for the Piece de Résistance; where were bicycle coalitions when mandatory motorcycle helmet laws were put into effect for the very same reasons Ms. Liu puts forth as proof of S.B. 192’s validity?
All of the above examples were the same type of legislative overreach that Senator Liu is attempting, yet where were the “Advocates” then? Additionally, all of the above examples had legitimate Pro and Con arguments, yet they were rammed through the Legislature, and forced upon all of us “For Our Own Good,” even though many of us can walk, chew gum, and juggle all at the same time. When mandatory motorcycle helmet laws were being advocated, the exact same reasons for their passage were used just as they are now in the case of S.B. 192. However, there was one added twist in the case of motorcyclists, and I am sure it will come up when Senator Liu meets more and more opposition: Injured cyclists will be a burden to hospital emergence rooms, and thus, Taxpayers. It will be espoused that it is not fair that Public Tax Dollars must be used to pay for the medical care of the “Irresponsible” cyclist. While the jury is still out how Obama Care will address that concern, that argument is as hollow now as it was in 1994 (when mandatory motorcycle helmet use became law in California). Interestingly, the costs of government waste, welfare recipients and Illegal Aliens are never factored into the equation of the fiduciary use of “Taxpayer Funds.”
So, what does this all mean, and what can we, the people of California, do about it? Well, the first thing we should not do is give up pushing back against the Legislative Overreach of Sacramento. The next thing we NEED to do is all fight together, no matter what our interests and activities are, to better help each other out to remove Intrusive-Government from our lives. The legislative abuse against your neighbor today will most certainly become the legislative abuse of yourself tomorrow. And, as that list of Government usurpations continues to grow, we, the people, unfortunately, barely make a sound of discontent, especially if the abuse does not apply to us, personally. That is, until the long arm of the Legislature reaches out into our own, personal activities, and once localized, then, and only then, is it all-out war for most people. I just wish all of us citizens were on the same page at the same time. The real bottom line is this: Either we all fight together against Government Abuse of Power, or we all fall under its sword. As Mr. Miyagi in the movie Karate Kid summed up so perfectly: “Choose.”
In totality, I agree safety equipment can help in the event of an accident, and that it is up to the individual to select not only the extent of their involvement in a given activity, but also the amount safety apparatus required. Taken to the furthest extreme (and Sacramento is just about there), is it really irrational to extrapolate that in the future everyone will be required to wear helmets and padded suits just to walk down the street? Well, the politicians and bureaucrats seeking to dictate every, single component of our lives certainly think so.
In summation, while I agree with the Spirit of this legislation (personal safety), I must disagree with the Letter of it (forced behavior), as it is a clear suppression of personal liberty and the right of a person to choose their own, best destiny. However, ignoring inherent rights has never stopped a Politician from passing “Feel Good” legislation, thus, the arguments against S.B. 192 will not persuade Sacramento, either.
The horse is already in the barn, save for the tail.