Seattle organizations as well as individuals are calling for action against the King County law requiring bicyclists to wear helmets, saying that disproportionate enforcement plays a big role in the issue, especially when it comes to Black, Native, and homeless riders. A main argument is the price of helmets, which tend to be less affordable for people of color in the city due to the large wealth gap throughout the city. Michelle Baruchman, Seattle Times reporter stated in this article, “An analysis of 1,667 helmet citations issued between 2003 and 2020 in Seattle found that Black cyclists received helmet infractions at a rate nearly four times higher than white cyclists. Native American/Alaska Native cyclists were cited at a rate more than two times higher than white riders.” Violators can face between $30 and $154 for a citation, depending on if court fees are added. Some cities like Tacoma have already made action against mandatory helmet laws because of racial disparities.
A concern for some parties against repealing the law is safety, arguing that helmets are necessary and save lives. While this is true with substantial research showing helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 85%, organizations like the Cascade Bicycle Club have acknowledged that criminalizing cyclists who ride without a helmet is not the best way to achieve safety throughout the community. There have many several suggestions for alternatives to the helmet law, including making the price of a helmet included with a purchase of a bike, having police officers carry extra helmets in their trunk to give out as needed, and even that streets could be designed better to reduce the chances of bikers being hit by cars.
Conversations like these are ones we must continue to have in order to end racial disparities and increase safety throughout our community, especially since the state of Washington is home to many bicyclists. GLP Attorneys has represented victims of bicycle collisions and is here for those who need a bike injury lawyer. If you have been involved or hurt while cycling, give one of our attorneys a call today.