Local and state lawmakers in Washington, hear this tale of warning from Oregon: Don’t propose a ban on children in bike seats. An Oregon legislator, Mitch Greenlick, has proposed a bill that would make it illegal to carry a child younger than six on a bicycle, either in a seat or a trailer. I’m sure this backwater Oregon Republican has just never seen a family of riders … wait, what’s that? He’s a Democrat from Portland? Really?
Well, I don’t know if he expected it or not, but the idea has received quite a backlash. Turns out, if you propose a ban on a normal and healthy activity without any real reason or evidence to support banning said activity, people get angry. One of Seattle’s own family biking blogger superstars, Julian at Totcycle, posted his thoughts:
Yes, this entire website would be illegal in the state of Oregon.
Clearly, there is no way this bill is going far. So what can we learn from this experience?
- Banning activities that are adorable, healthy, fun and bring hope to a sometimes bleak transportation landscape is not a good political move.
- Study first, then legislate if necessary (via Bike Portland).
- Banning bike riding under the guise of “health” concerns is likely to be nonsense.
- Don’t piss off family bikers. Compared to the trials of hauling growing kids up big hills in the rain, fighting a silly state bill like this is, well, child’s play.
According to Greenlick, the bill came out of concerns for children after reading a recent study that showed 5 percent of bike commuters experienced a traumatic event that required medical attention. The study does not, however, say anything about injuries to children in bike seats.
However, can you guess what the leading cause of death among children is? Car crashes. Seeing as many children currently hauled by bike would end up in car seats if riding were banned, that seems like a poor public health decision.
I would love to see Portland conduct a study of the relative safety of transporting children via bicycle. It seems there is no good data. In fact, a study looking at all modes (driving, walking, transit, biking) would be the best. But until we have that kind of data, let’s not get egg on our faces trying to ban activities that might seem dangerous to some people.
UPDATE 5:55 PM – And… it’s already gone. It will likely be turned into a bill to study the safety of riding with children on a bike. That’s if it comes up in committee at all.