NYC Deputy Mayor: Bike Lanes, Not Mandatory Helmet Laws, Save Lives

Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 04:48 PM

NYC Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson (photo by Fred Mogul/WNYC)

How are oversize sodas and bike helmets alike?

According to a New York City official, they're really not.

New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson -- an avid bicyclist -- was at a press conference Thursday for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on super-sized, sugary sodas. He was asked why the mayor didn't support mandatory bike helmet legislation for all riders (like the bill just introduced into New York's City Council by council member David Greenfield.)

You can listen to Wolfson's explanation below, or read his response.

"First of all, there's no other major city in the country that has a mandatory bike helmet law, and there's a reason why. The thing that actually saves the lives of cyclists is protecting them from drivers, which we have done more in this city than any other city in America. It's why our fatalities are down in this city, accident fatalities are down to an all-time low. So we are making enormous progress in keeping cyclists alive. I understand there is a council person who has promulgated this. He is not a friend of bicyclists. He is against bike lanes. So I'm not going to take -- and this administration is not going to take advice on protecting cyclists from somebody who has consistently been against the things that saves the lives of cyclists. As somebody who bikes to work nearly every day, I can tell you what saves the lives of cyclists. It's separating cyclists from cars. And we've done more of that in this city than any other city in America. We're going to keep doing that, we're going to keep driving down fatalities, we've been successful at it. We're not going to take advice from people who aren't actually on the side of cyclist safety."


Wolfson also underscored his point by tweeting it at Greenfield.


Comments [10]

Ride2Wk from Australia

Dale - go learn some facts before you type. Look up Helmet Freedom & Cyclists Rights Action Group in Australia for some facts against helmet laws here in Australia where the 22 year old laws have been an utter failure. As for your sentence - "I cant wait until the next mayor gives the streets back to the motorists who they were made on streets...pedestrians on sidewalks...and bikes in parks...." Go study your history, read the new English book "Roads were not made for cars" website and look at the old photos from the 1890s-1910 period - you should see a few bikes, heaps of pedestrians "jay walking" (as everyone did back then before cars scared everyone off the road that were made for pedestrians and horses originally)trams, horses & just the occasional new-comer - the car. Note bikes were on the streets before cars were & it was bicycle inventions & development that helped lead to cars. It was also the cycling "better roads" movement that made good roads that cars later took to.

".I can hear the applause from the outer boroughs." No that would be all the traffic noise you can hear from the outer boroughs. It's caused by all those noisy stinking cars.

Oct. 22 2013 06:22 AM

The logic of helmets is powerful enough without laws. Helmets aren't required for skiing but now many wear them. My son fell backward skiing and cracked his helmet open, including a thick shell, from the back clear to the top. No concusion and fortunately he is still a top student.

Now if only those skateboarders would get the memo.

Aug. 30 2012 11:42 PM

From the midwest here and excited that NYC will have the largest bike share program in the country. Its success will have a ripple effect throughout the country that will be felt in my community as well.

I commute to work by bicycle and I wear a helmet because it has protected my head from several falls. I'm used to it and I don't even think about it as its like clicking a seatbelt when driving.

However, I wouldn't force others to wear them so I'm not in favor of mandatory bicycle helmet laws. Personal choice. I do force my kids to wear helmets so they get into the habit.

Ride NYC! We'll visit soon.

Jun. 14 2012 06:22 AM

Do we need laws for everything?

NY Biker Dies at Anti-Helmet Protest: Hit Head With No Helmet

Its better to have separates area of travel for cars and bikes. It should be up to the biker whether or not you wear a helmet. I think the police are way to busy with the stop and frisk issues than to chase a non helmeted biker.

If you wish to wear a helmet good for you, if you don't, its your choice.

Jun. 12 2012 05:13 AM
Phil Vitale

I've been wearing a helmet for almost 30 years. One time I took a spill in the rain when I stopped short because a squirrel ran in my path and I went over the front wheel and the bike followed. My head hit the curb of the sidewalk (I wasn't riding on the sidewalk)that made a severe dent in the helmet. Guess who'd be dead now if it weren't for that helmet?

Jun. 10 2012 08:48 AM

Also, Dale, get your facts straight. Your first quote is a complete contradiction of what your saying. More than 200 municipalities having helmet laws says nothing of any major city having them. Particularly not since most apply to children.

Jun. 06 2012 12:54 PM

You think "licensing and fees are required to pay for the road maintenance," Dale? Do you understand how little impact a cyclist has on a paved road compared to a car? Virtually none.

Part of the appeal of a riding a bike is that it costs very little money to maintain and keeps you healthy at the same.

I agree with you that cyclists should not run red lights and be held accountable for riding the wrong way down streets, but I think you're crazy to say that bikes should only be in parks. Cities need to have less reliance on cars and more on bikes, public transportation, and walking.

Jun. 06 2012 12:47 PM
dale earnhardt

“First of all, there’s no other major city in the country that has a mandatory bike helmet law,"....... Hey Mr. Wolfson get your facts sound like the lying douchbags from Transportation Alternatives....Here is an exerpt from a recent WSJ article..."In the U.S., nearly two-dozen states and more than 200 municipalities have laws requiring helmets, but the vast majority of those laws pertain to children, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. Dallas and Seattle are among the largest cities in the nation that require all bikers to wear helmets, no matter the age."......There is a reason all those places have this law....IT MAKES PEOPLE SAFER!!!....just like seatbelt laws for motor vehicle drivers.....if u guys wanna share the road and be considered an acceptable form of transportation then saftey measures, licensing and fees are required to pay for the road maintenance and require accountability of cyclists when the drive up wrong way streets, drive thru multiple red lights and on are not are spoiled brats who want elite status and preferential treatment....this aint a college town where everybody bikes...(or london mayor mike)....I cant wait until the next mayor gives the streets back to the motorists who they were made on streets...pedestrians on sidewalks...and bikes in parks.....I can hear the applause from the outer boroughs.....

Jun. 04 2012 12:53 PM
Kate Hinds

TG: Helmets are already required in NYC for children 13 and under; you can learn more about the law here.

Jun. 02 2012 06:05 PM
John Cladianos

i too wear a helmet everywhere sam. and i hear you. if you asked me to trade it in for seperated bike lanes i know which one is safer and they can have my prized catlike whisperlight. i get the argument taht a helmet adds a false sense of security, when instead of focusing on, "what can happen? check my rad helmet.", we should be focusing on the cars, road, and other pedestrians, rioding safely, and making sure we don't hava a fall in the first place. mandatory helmet laws for motorcycles (way faster and way more dangerous) have saved a few but statistically haven't helped overall, and the laws are being repealed in every state of america. i want to send a major fist pumping shout out to wolfson for taking on that jackass greenfield and bringing us his record of never having voting for anything good for cyclists.

Jun. 02 2012 02:51 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.