Town Runs Out of Money, Takes Bike Helmet Laws Off the Books

The annual revenue of Milton, Washington, has dropped from $4.9 million in 2010 to a projected $3.9 million this year. And—unlike nearly every other unit of government in the United States today—the small town has decided to respond to the drop in revenue by doing less stuff. Novel.

In addition to cutting deals with neighboring towns to provide firefighting and library services, Milton has axed its activities director. And when an insurance consultant pointed out that having a bunch of laws on the books that the town is utterly unable to enforce is a bad idea...well, let's let The New York Times tell it:

An inability to enforce a law on the books...created administrative unevenness that — in the event of an accident by someone who was not nagged or cited about helmet use — posed a liability risk that could bankrupt the community with one swipe from a punitive-minded jury.

And plaudits to this rare small town mayor, Debra Perry, who possesses the ability—rare in politicians—to distinguish between things that are stupid and things that should be illegal:

“Of course you should wear a helmet,” she said in an interview in her office. “But this is a parents issue — parents need to be supervising their children, making sure their children are well dressed and have helmets on. Wearing flip-flops and shorts and no helmets on skateboards and bikes is just stupid.”

More on helmet laws. We are out of money.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Let the decider ride.

  • Tim||

    The fucking Commerce Clause would beg to differ.

  • RBS||

    What is stupid about riding a bike while wearing shorts and flip flops? I guess she's never been to the beach.

  • some guy||

    She thinks that all bike riders are always navigating NYC rush hour traffic.

  • ||

    My mom actually got a toe chopped of when she was a kid doing that, though it might have been barefoot instead of flip-flops. In any case they sewed it back on and life went on without any government intervention.

  • SFC B||

    "stupid" is strong, but falling off, or being knocked off, is a very real, and not-infrequent, accident to bicycle riders. Shorts do not provide a whole lot of abrasion resistance. Also, loose footwear like flip-flops can become snagged in the chain, or strike the ground unexpectedly. Also, it offers no protection.

    If you want to ride in shorts and flip-flops, or have your kids ride in them, have at. Me and mine will ride properly attired and laugh at your injury.

    Regardless, not worth it to the government to waste its time, or my money, to enforce something that stupid and so clearly a personal preference.

  • some guy||

    Debra Perry, who possesses the ability—rare in politicians—to distinguish between things that are stupid and things that should be illegal.

    Even rarer is the person who realizes that most "stupid" things have elements of both risk and reward and that the ideal balance point will vary greatly between individuals.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    ... most "stupid" things have elements of both risk and reward and that the ideal balance point will vary greatly between individuals.

    Having just watched 2 hours of testimony from Jamie Dimon, I disagree. See, Congress has some smart people that realize that risk is bad. They are trying to get a handle on how bad risk is. When they quantify how bad risk is, they are going to pass laws that outlaw risk. That way, we won't have to suffer the bad consequences of risk, only the good stuff. I saw it on TV.

  • ||

    You can practically hear the sneer:

    In an era of polarized politics, the fear of government encroachment is one thing that unifies Americans from the left and the right.

    Shorter NYT: Caring about freedom is so gauche.

  • some guy||

    We aren't united about the extra-judicial killings of american citizens, but by god we will stand together on bike helmet laws!

  • sloopyinca||

    Was this your way of summoning me and John to the thread?

    Put simply, most of us value American lives the same, but when it comes to children in Pakistan, Yemen or Afghanistan who happen to live next to a guy that said something bad about America in passing to another bad guy who was actually an undercover CIA agent, their lives vary in value from "human" to "meh, collateral damage."

  • juris imprudent||

    I can't say that I value every human life on earth equally. That does not mean I think my government should be dispatching them willy-nilly. That kind of thing might just have a way of coming back and biting us all in the ass.

  • Xenocles||

    Yeah, it's not zero-sum.

  • some guy||

    I guess I should specify that I was talking about the US government killing its own citizens without due process, not about the US government killing random foreigners without due process.

    Its disconcerting that we seem to be more afraid of helmet laws than laser-guided bombs.

  • SFC B||

    The father in India who beheaded his sexually active 20 year old daughter has far, far, far less value to me than the gold fish in my fish tank.

  • ||

    The people are not worthy of their leaders.

  • NoVAHockey||

    thanks for your input Mr. Brooks

  • sarcasmic||

    “Of course you should wear a helmet,” she said in an interview in her office. “But this is a parents issue — parents need to be supervising their children, making sure their children are well dressed and have helmets on. Wearing flip-flops and shorts and no helmets on skateboards and bikes is just stupid.”

    I thought it was child abuse to the level of requiring that the children be taken from their negligent parents and raised instead by the loving State.

  • Lord Humungus||

    where is the fainting couch?

  • R C Dean||

    a liability risk that could bankrupt the community

    I'm no expert on sovereign immunity and all, but I'm having a really hard time believing that a city can be successfully sued if somebody falls off their bike without a helmet on, regardless of what helmet laws they have and how strictly they enforce them.

  • niobiumstudio||

    Town I used to live in recently put in a Skate Park. It requires helmets and pads. If someone wearing proper equipment got seriously hurt and was able to prove that the park was built improperly or maintained insufficiently, they could sue the owner. the town, for negligence. Possible they are worried about something like that? Failing to enforce the law "causes" someone to get hurt (obviously not the town's fault and 100% the parents fault), some badass lawyer convinces a jury it is the fault of the town, and they have to pay out $800,000 in damages.

  • ||

    $800K?

    n, you are setting your sights WAY too low. I'd shoot for $5M and settle for two.

  • niobiumstudio||

    Yeah, I know, tbh I pulled a number out of my ass. $800,000 sounds like a good number for little Johnny or Suzy falling and cracking open a his/her skull... If they died your $5 mil sounds a lot better. I was assuming they lived and were able to testify from a wheelchair while wearing a sling and a head bandage.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Next time you pass by it, check to see if it has wheelchair access. I've heard of skate park being closed down for not providing "access".

  • niobiumstudio||

    Actually it does have access and 2 handicapped parking spots. It made me crack up everytime I passed by. Hockey Rink, Baseball Field, Basketball Court and a Skate park with like 15 spots, 2 of them handicapped.

  • some guy||

    Won't someone please think of the spectators!?

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    sshhhhhh!

  • R C Dean||

    a liability risk that could bankrupt the community

    I'm no expert on sovereign immunity and all, but I'm having a really hard time believing that a city can be successfully sued if somebody falls off their bike without a helmet on, regardless of what helmet laws they have and how strictly they enforce them.

  • ||

    Now, if someone falls off their bike and goes boom, they'll be able to sue the city for repealing the hemet law.

  • Rich||

    In a just world, they'd be able to sue Greece for causing the city to repeal the hemet law.

  • toxic||

    Bike helmets are rated to protect the crown of your head at under 5 mph. So basically it's designed to protect kids who just randomly endo onto their heads. It's ability to protect you in a car crash is fairly hotly disputed. There's some evidence that helmets increase the number of accidents.

    It's not really that stupid to not wear a helmet. Especially if you're cruising around at low speeds. It will keep you from getting a boo-boo in a non-serious crash, but that's about it. It's hardly in the same category as seat belts or even motorcycle helmets, since bike helmets are basically molded styrofoam and the safety standard is so much lower.

  • SugarFree||

    But they look so cool.

  • BakedPenguin||

    So this is you, then? (possibly NSFW)

  • SugarFree||

    Mine are all jelly dongs, but that's basically correct.

  • ||

    Under 5 mph? We need a new federal agency to regulate bicycle hemet safety standards!

  • SugarFree||

    No, we need gear locks on bicycles to keep them from going over 5 mph. And we ban downhills to protect skateboarders.

  • ||

    Mandatory fixies.

  • sloopyinca||

    Go to hell, warty. Go. Straight. To. Hell.

  • Tim||

    We demand industry develop a 45 MPH rated helmet by 2019.

    * Gubmint stimulus

  • NoVAHockey||

    without fail, if the Post runs a picture of a bicyclist without a helmet people write letters-to-the-editors complaining that the paper is promoting bad habits and/or unsafe biking.

  • niobiumstudio||

    Though a quality modern helmet made for park use is going to protect you a hell of a lot more than some $10 toys-r-us helmet that is just styrafoam. Not many boys are going to be riding around at low speeds - they are going to be building ramps and all kinds of crazy shit where a helmet can be life and death. For an adult or someone cruising about it isn't stupid to not wear a helmet, but a normal kid doign what kids do would be pretty stupid. Not saying there should be laws - that is a different subject all together.

  • ||

    Not saying there should be laws - that is a different subject.

  • niobiumstudio||

    Was just addressing the quip that it isn't stupid to wear helmets on bikes - especially for children. I had to put that last part so that the people of reason didn't assume I was advocating for stupid laws and call me a slaver and chase me off with a broom.

  • ||

    I was spoofing the movie Airplane.

    1:25

  • ||

    SFed the link

    google "Airplane- It's an entirely different kind of flying altogether"

  • niobiumstudio||

    +1 to you, good sir.

  • niobiumstudio||

    Video is dead but I know exactly what you are talking about :-D

  • toxic||

    Well you're right. Obviously if you are at a skate park or doing anything remotely technical you should have a helmet. I thought it was obvious from the context that I was talking about people just tootling around their neighborhood on their Schwinn. The only serious danger there is car collision, something the helmet is not really designed to provide much protection for.

    I wear a helmet all the time on the bike, but I also tend to be doing things that are quite a bit faster and/or more technical than the average person and I don't need a legislator to tell me to exercise common sense.

  • Xenocles||

    That's why I wear a motorcycle helmet everywhere I go. Except to bed. Except on "special" nights.

  • sloopyinca||

    Except on "special" nights.

    Aren't those the nights you need one the most?

  • some guy||

    He was excepting the exception, I believe.

  • Xenocles||

    This.

  • SFC B||

    On really special nights the motorcycle helmet is a requested accessory.

    And that was before knowing about the BP linked.

  • sarcasmic||

    Maine is so awesome that there is a law at the state level that gives Officer Friendly the power to give any child under fifteen a twenty dollar ticket if they're riding a bicycle without a helmet.

    So much awesome it drips onto the floor!

  • ||

    Is the bicycle riding child required to have a "riders" license while pedaling?

    If not, how would officer Friendly know who to make the ticket to?

    We need a federal agency to regulate/license chilrenz and bicyclez!

  • sarcasmic||

    http://www.mainelegislature.or.....c2323.html

    There really is no activity that the busybodies don't want to regulate.

    I'm surprised that there aren't regulations on how much toilet paper one may use when taking a shit.

  • niobiumstudio||

    My town growing up had the same law and it was enforced more rigorously than speeding with a-holes driving 60mph though residential streets. Though, it was hilarious to make police chase you for 1/2 a mile and getting away 90% of the time.

  • sarcasmic||

    http://www.mainelegislature.or.....c2323.html

    There really is no activity that the busybodies don't want to regulate.

    I'm surprised that there aren't regulations on how much toilet paper one may use when taking a shit.

  • sarcasmic||

    The three o'clock squirrels.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    In CA they ticket kids for riding without a helmet and the penalty is a fine and mandatory attendance at a bike safety class, for the kids and their parents.

  • sloopyinca||

    Really? My kids regularly ride past a local police precinct house without helmets on, and once my son almost got hit by a cop pulling out of the station when the cop didn't look right (on the sidewalk) before making a right hand turn. I yelled at him and he backed up and apologized to my son but told me we should have been on the bike path across the street. My son corrected him since the nearest access point to the path was in the direction we were heading. Cop just looked at him as I started laughing. Cop pulled away.

    How big is the ticket?

  • ||

    V C Section 21212 Youth Bicycle Helmets Minors
    Youth Bicycle Helmets: Minors

    21212. (a) A person under 18 years of age shall not operate a bicycle, a nonmotorized scooter, or a skateboard, nor shall they wear in-line or roller skates, nor ride upon a bicycle, a nonmotorized scooter, or a skateboard as a passenger, upon a street, bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public bicycle path or trail unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet that meets the standards of either the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), or standards subsequently established by those entities. This requirement also applies to a person who rides upon a bicycle while in a restraining seat that is attached to the bicycle or in a trailer towed by the bicycle.

    (b) Any helmet sold or offered for sale for use by operators and passengers of bicycles, nonmotorized scooters, skateboards, or in-line or roller skates shall be conspicuously labeled in accordance with the standard described in subdivision (a) which shall constitute the manufacturer's certification that the helmet conforms to the applicable safety standards.

  • ||

    (c) No person shall sell, or offer for sale, for use by an operator or passenger of a bicycle, nonmotorized scooter, skateboard, or in-line or roller skates any safety helmet which is not of a type meeting requirements established by this section.

    (d) Any charge under this subdivision shall be dismissed when the person charged alleges in court, under oath, that the charge against the person is the first charge against that person under this subdivision, unless it is otherwise established in court that the charge is not the first charge against the person.

    (e) Except as provided in subdivision (d), a violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than twenty-five dollars ($25).

  • ||

    btw, sloopy here's anothe difference between us. i believe you. whenever i offer a relevant anecdote, something i would likely have given 20+ yrs in law enforcement, when it's a LEO related topic, i get lots of "where's your proof?" and other such challenges.

    i don't play those silly games. i believe you. i give you the benefit of the doubt. i may disagree with you on a few policy issues, but i have no reason to assume you are a liar, and if you are making these anecdotes up, you just diminish yourself. it's no skin off my back.

    simply put, my anecdotes are true, as well

    and any cop with 20+ yrs experience, especially in busy districts is going to have a lot of anecdotes, and a lot of unique experiences.

    comes with the territory

  • BakedPenguin||

    It's everywhere.

  • ||

    ditto california, as cited below.

    frankly, i would guess off the top of my head that the majority of states have such a law

  • Brandybuck||

    I got a ticket once as a kid while riding a bicycle. Got a ticket for speeding. Seriously. Went to court and the judge grounded me. Had to walk to school for the next week.

  • sloopyinca||

    You know what else got grounded? I'll give you all a hint: It rhymes with Veal Darmstrong's Bailbox.

  • ubik||

    This is an Onion story, right?

  • ||

    What the hell is happening in that animated gif, anyway?

  • Tim||

    Hats off to the turtle, Nature's safest animal.

  • Rich||

    Nice.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Doesn't having common sense make her a teabagger? You're supposed to let the government do all of your thinking for you.

  • ||

    I quit wearing a bicycle helmet a few years ago -- the cost of having a really sweaty head and being uncomfortable, versus the minute chance of losing the rest of a rapidly dwindling remaining life expectancy, reached a tipping point IMO.

  • ||

    Wearing flip-flops and shorts and no helmets on skateboards and bikes is just stupid.”

    Because, clearly, Lance Armstrong and everyone else who has ever ridden in the Tour de France wearing spandex bike shorts is stupid and knows nothing about bicycle riding.

  • sloopyinca||

    I'm giving her a pass on that. After all, she's mayor in a town whose summer lasts about 2-3 months on average and gets rain around 300 days a year. It probably is dangerous to skateboard in those conditions in flip-flops and no helmets if you are concerned with minor injuries. Not too sure about biking, though.

    Perhaps she meant all those things for skateboarders and just the helmet part for cyclists?

  • Fluffy||

    I grudgingly wear a helmet on the bike path, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it makes me LESS safe.

    It completely fucks up your peripheral vision and your hearing. I'm not sure how it does this, because it doesn't actually cover your eyes or ears, but it does. With no helmet I'm completely in touch with my surroundings, and with a helmet on everything behind me may as well be happening in a black hole.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Heh heh...

    You said "hole".

    Heh heh...heh heh...heh heh...

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