The Op-Ed “Reconsider bike helmet-law repeal” [Oct. 20, Opinion] described how the King County Board of Health is poised to repeal the regulation enacted in 2003 mandating bicycle helmets for all riders. This repeal is not the result of a preponderance of evidence showing that helmets no longer reduce head injury once a crash occurs, or that the county has implemented comprehensive bicycle safety initiatives that have eliminated bicycle crashes.
No, the board’s move to repeal the regulation is in response to the disproportionate enforcement of helmet laws, especially among Black and Native riders, and riders experiencing homelessness. We unequivocally denounce disproportionate enforcement of this regulation, especially among people of color and other marginalized populations. But rather than repeal the regulation, the board has an opportunity to reimagine transportation systems that achieve both equity and safety.
In addition to keeping the law intact, the Board could implement Safe Systems, an approach that would engineer road systems so they minimize the chances for road-user mistakes and reduce the intensity of crashes when they do occur. Equity and safety can successfully coexist, and we call on the King County Board of Health to lead the way.
Elise Omaki, Seattle; Keshia M. Pollack Porter, Baltimore; Shannon Frattaroli, Baltimore, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy