A number of board members have been specific throughout a gathering Thursday of their need to strike the legislation from the books, and none raised any clear opposition. On the core of their reasoning was the legislation’s disproportionate use in opposition to individuals of coloration and people experiencing homelessness, in addition to questions on whether or not it was attaining its said objective.
“The ordinance is outdated,” board member Dr. Invoice Daniell stated.
On the similar time, members sought to clarify that they help and encourage voluntary helmet use and will substitute the legislation with a decision stating as a lot.
Board members started their reconsideration of the legislation amid new scrutiny of the way it was being enforced. Final yr, a Crosscut evaluation confirmed that almost half — and sure extra — of tickets written underneath the legislation got to individuals fighting homelessness. This disproportionate use of helmet citations occurred at the same time as bikeshare turned well-liked in Seattle and King County — a rental service that doesn’t include helmets.
On the similar time, Ethan Campbell of Central Seattle Greenways, a department of the road security group Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, discovered that Black riders have been cited for not sporting a helmet at practically 4 occasions the speed as whites.
Whereas the legislation’s unique intentions have been good, “there simply wasn’t as a lot thought of how, in follow, the legislation could be used and in opposition to whom,” Campbell stated of its early Nineties enactment.
Campbell raised the priority, shared by others, that the police have used the legislation as a pretext to cease individuals of coloration and people experiencing homelessness. In actual fact, in 2019, a Seattle Municipal Court docket choose dismissed a firearms cost in opposition to a person dwelling in a homeless encampment as a result of it was obtained after police stopped him for not sporting a helmet.
The latest revelations across the legislation’s enforcement have spurred extra bicycle advocates to push for its repeal.
“We do consider that helmets can add a stage of safety, however we don’t consider this must be a matter of legislation enforcement,” stated Paul Tolmé of the Cascade Bicycle Membership. Assist for repealing the helmet legislation is new for Cascade, an influential bicycle advocacy group in Seattle that favored the legislation’s enactment years in the past. However, Tolmé stated, the info on who’s focused for enforcement has pressured a reckoning amongst members.
“We’ve discovered loads within the intervening many years,” stated Tolmé. The group’s bumper-sticker desire is now: “Helmets sure, helmet legal guidelines no.”
The requirement that every one adults put on helmets was permitted in King County in 1993. In 2003, that legislation was expanded to incorporate Seattle. On the similar time, 17 cities inside King County have their very own necessities, which might not be affected by the actions of the Board of Well being.
On the time the legislation was created, proof advised it completed its objectives of accelerating helmet utilization. Fatalities and extreme head accidents amongst cyclists decreased by as a lot as 20%, based on analysis from Harborview Medical Middle.
However the legislation’s usefulness immediately is unclear. Within the Board of Well being’s assembly Thursday, county workers advised its impression was waning. In Seattle, enforcement was minimal; in 2019, Seattle police wrote simply 118 tickets, regardless of file ranges of ridership.
Based on Campbell, the tradition of helmet sporting has modified for the reason that legislation’s unique passage. “We now have to keep in mind that helmet use was basically zero earlier than the ’90s,” he stated. Whereas precise numbers could be onerous to return by, Campbell stated cities with and with out helmet legal guidelines now each have excessive charges of helmet use.
Eliminating the legislation was one in every of two choices into account by the board, which is made up of elected officers from each the county and King County cities. The opposite possibility would take away language relating to enforcement of the legislation, leaving the legislation in place however stopping law enforcement officials from issuing citations.
Two county organizations tasked with pushing for extra equitable outcomes in public well being — The Pandemic and Racism Neighborhood Advisory Group and the Fairness Response Staff — every opposed this step, fearing unintended penalties.
Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a member of each the board and the King County Council, was not but dedicated to repealing the legislation, calling the difficulty “sophisticated” in an interview. And not using a parallel public service push to remind individuals to put on a helmet, Kohl-Welles stated she’s cautious about absolutely repealing the legislation. On the similar time, she stated, “I am not keen to associate with issues as they’re now, the place we’d take the choice of doing nothing, the place disparities in enforcement proceed.”
In a presentation to Board of Well being members, workers proposed a number of methods the county might improve helmet utilization with out utilizing legislation enforcement, together with offering free or low-cost helmets to individuals who want them, host group schooling occasions and rent a bicycle security planner on the county stage.
The board might vote on the repeal and a decision supporting helmet use subsequent month.