City Council Hearing on Requiring Minors to Wear Helmets While on Scooters
November 8, 2000
Good morning, my name is Susan Boyle. I am the Bicycle Program Director at Transportation Alternatives. Transportation Alternatives is the country's largest local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization, and also supports the use of scooters as a city-friendly form of travel.
Transportation Alternatives is opposed to requiring minors to wear helmets while on scooters. I should note Transportation Alternatives strongly supports helmet use. Helmets can reduce head injuries and the risk of death. However, we are firmly opposed to any legislation requiring minors to wear helmets while on scooters.
This hearing is likely a reaction to the death of Andy Pino, the 6 year old boy who was riding his scooter when killed by a car in late September. In the New York Times article describing the tragedy titled, Boy's Death Leads to Calls For Helmets With Scooters, the police lieutenant is quoted stating that "unfortunately, in this case a helmet wouldn't have saved [Andy Pino's] life." Why then are you calling to mandate helmets for young scooter riders and not regulate or discipline this driver and others who have killed or injured children on scooters?
The fact is the only thing that could have saved this boys life was if the woman from Elizabeth NJ was driving more slowly as she passed Andy's home. A more appropriate outcome of the Pino family's tragedy would be if real effort were made to reduce speeds in residential neighborhoods. This can be accomplished by reengineering the streets for slower speeds using traffic calming devices such as speed humps, road narrowing and through public education campaigns telling drivers the simple fact, speed kills. You have an 95% chance of survival if you are hit by a car going 20 mph. That percentage plummets to a 55% chance of survival at 30 mph.
We oppose mandating helmets and recommend steps are taken to implement widespread traffic calming taking advantage of the new Slow Speed Legislation and creating slow speed zones in residential neighborhoods, in front of schools, parks, senior centers and pre-schools. In the meantime vendors should be required to place a big "wear a helmet" tag on scooters and vendors should provide a discount coupon on helmets.
Transportation Alternatives would welcome the chance to work with Council staff on these and other safety measures.