Mayor mulls helmets for Citi Bikers, licenses for all cyclists

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | During a monthly crime-stats press conference last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he was considering making Citi Bike riders wear helmets and require all cyclists to get licenses.

The comments were made after CBS2 reporter Marcia Kramer asked if the mayor had considered forcing Citi Bike users to wear helmets given the high number of cyclist deaths in the city this year, according to Streetsblog.

“I have thought about that,” de Blasio responded. Later, during the press conference, de Blasio stated that he was also considering requiring cyclists in New York City to have licenses.

But some cycling activists think that both measures would do more harm than good.

“It’s just a bad idea,” said Bill Di Paola, director of Time’s Up, an environmental organization that promotes bicycling as a greener transportation alternative.

“It’s such a tight city and every day people think about how they are going to move around and the idea that they would have to carry a helmet around…they would probably not use a bicycle,” he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is offering some new idea affecting cyclists, such as requiring helmets for Citi Bike riders and licenses for all cyclists. (Photo by Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

It would be a slippery slope from implementing a helmet law and license requirement, to decreasing bicycling safety in the city, Di Paola argues. A helmet law would deter ridership, decreasing the number of cyclists on the streets, and so car drivers would become less accustomed to safely sharing the road, the activist said.

According to CityLab, helmet laws played a major role in dismantling some bike-share programs in Seattle and Melbourne, while bicycle licensing laws implemented in cities like Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles across the country also have failed.

But in Honolulu, a bicycle license law has been successful. But its success lies in obtaining the fee at the point of purchase. When residents buy a bike, they pay an additional $15 fee for a license, which is then delivered to their home.

Just four days before the press conference, a 47-year-old man was killed after an enraged SUV driver in Bushwick, Brooklyn, intentionally plowed into him, making him the 21st cyclist killed in New York City this year, more than doubling last year’s last year’s total.

After the city’s 17th bicyclist death of the year in July, the mayor declared a bicycling “emergency” and announced a new $58.4 million “Green Wave” plan to add new bike lanes, redesign intersections and increase enforcement of traffic laws over the next five years.

The Department of Transportation did not respond to comment by press time about the mayor’s statements on helmets for Citi Bike riders and licenses for all New York City cyclists.

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