Corinne Kisner, Executive Director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), issued the following statement in response to recommendations from the NTSB to improve bicyclist safety:
For the first time since 1972, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) turned its attention to bicycle safety and released a series of recommendations to protect people on bikes on US streets. NACTO applauds the Board’s road design and bike infrastructure recommendations and renewed focus on this topic as cyclist fatalities in the US hit an 18-year high in 2018. However, a last-minute recommendation that states adopt mandatory helmet laws flies in the face of best practice on bicycle safety.
While requiring helmets may seem like an intuitive way to protect riders, the evidence doesn’t bear this out. Experience has shown that while bike helmets can be protective, bike helmet laws are not.
In Australia, where mandatory adult helmet laws were introduced regionally between 1990 and 1992, bike count and safety data from the time showed that helmet laws actively discouraged people from riding a bike while producing no notable safety gains. Closer to home, North American bike share systems have low rates of helmet usage (estimated at below 25%), yet are incredibly safe, with four fatalities over more than 160 million trips.
Making people on bikes more visible makes them safer. Data from numerous cities demonstrates that risk to an individual cyclist drops as overall bicycle ridership grows.
Building safe places to ride, including all-ages-and-abilities bike lanes, and increasing bike ridership are the most powerful methods to improve safety—not only for people riding but for all road users. Governments at all levels must embrace this finding and work to build and expand high-quality bike infrastructure to truly protect cyclists and eliminate fatalities.
NACTO strongly urges NTSB to remove the recommendation that states adopt mandatory helmet laws and work with their federal and state partners to enshrine the remainder of this critical, timely, and well-researched report into practice.
About the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)
NACTO is an association of 81 major North American cities and transit agencies formed to exchange transportation ideas, insights, and practices and cooperatively approach national transportation issues. The organization’s mission is to build cities as places for people, with safe, sustainable, accessible, and equitable transportation choices that support a strong economy and vibrant quality of life. To learn more, visit nacto.org or follow us on Twitter at @NACTO.
Alex Engel | [email protected] | 646-324-2919