NYC Mayor: Bike Helmets Are Nice, But Separated Bike Lanes Are More Important

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NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (third from left) at Montefiore Medical Center (photo by Kathleen Horan/WNYC)

Last week, a spokesman for New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg shot down one politician's call for a mandatory bike helmet law. On Tuesday the mayor did it himself.

Bloomberg was at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx to talk about the dangers of obesity -- and plug his supersize soda ban. In the Q&A afterwards, one reporter asked him whether the city's opposition to a mandatory helmet law is based on studies that show those laws can discourage cycling.

You can read his response, or listen to his comments, below.

Bloomberg: "Well, look, keep in mind that my foundation works on traffic safety and getting helmets to people that ride motorcycles and motor scooters more than bicycles, is something that we're working on and spent a lot of money on around the world. It would be better if everybody wore a helmet. I think in a practical sense a lot of people won't, and they're better off taking a bike than driving or walking in the streets and getting pedestrian accidents (sic). The most important thing we can do is separate bicycles lanes from traffic, and that's one of the things we're really trying to do."

(He was then asked a follow-up question by a different reporter, who referenced the city's upcoming bike share program and asked: "how concerned are you about safety in terms of pedestrians and vehicles? You're going to be adding 10,000 bikes to the street.")

Bloomberg: "It's New York. Ten thousand is a trivial number. Anything is better than what we have now. Keep in mind that traffic deaths are at an all-time low. And we started keeping records -- I think it was back in 1916, rings a bell, something like that -- when the city was much smaller. The bottom line is that since we've had more bicycle lanes and more bicycles -- there's always accidents, and I'm not making light of it -- but total accidents and deaths continues to go down. And bicycles are one of those things that does tend to slow down traffic and separates bicycles...what you shouldn't do is take your bicycle on the sidewalk. What you shouldn't do is go blasting through red lights. What you shouldn't do is ride where you're not supposed to. What you shouldn't do is not pay attention. I saw somebody going by the other day texting on their bicycle. And lots of people I see in the car texting while they're driving. That doesn't take away the need to be intelligent and to do things that make sense and not do those that are dangerous."