Pin It
Favorite

Head Games 

Spokane Valley ponders a bike helmet ordinance

When he heard that we were calling about the helmet ordinance being bandied about in the city of Spokane Valley, council member Gary Schimmels said, "Uh-oh" and laughed. "What a nice controversy," he added.

On Tuesday, May 24, the city of Spokane Valley held its first public reading of an ordinance, urged by the Safe Kids Coalition, that would require anyone using a bicycle, skateboard, skates, scooter -- you name it -- to wear a helmet. Those over the age of 16 who are caught without one would face a charge of around $100; those under 16 would be funneled into an education program.

Sound familiar? The Safe Kids Coalition pushed a similar measure in the city of Spokane last year that passed through the council (despite a veto by Mayor Jim West) and became law in August. The law's backers said that it was just common sense; opponents called it an infringement on personal rights.

The argument is no different today in the Valley. Ana Matthews, who is spearheading the ordinance for the Safe Kids Coalition, a group of 20-some organizations led by the Spokane Regional Health District, spews numbers: Washington spends $113 million each year on treatment of non-fatal bicycle injuries; every $10 bike helmet saves the country $30 in direct health costs.

Looking at this data and a steady decline in helmet usage, she says those in her organization asked themselves, "What is going to create a behavior change in our community? What is the piece of the puzzle that is missing? We knew that that was the legislation."

So far, it looks like the Spokane Valley city council agrees. Most of the members present for last week's reading shared the sentiment offered by the dozen or so people who came to testify in support of the ordinance.

Gary Schimmels says he supports the ordinance because "it sends a positive message" and because "people won't take care of themselves" otherwise. And who pays when helmet-less cyclists end up in the hospital? "Society pays," he says. "It's a long string of problems."

Councilman Mike Flanigan, who last week expressed reservations about applying the law to adults as well as kids, says he spent the weekend reading up on helmet law and is now leaning toward both. The cost to society, he says, "supercedes a person saying 'If I want to bust my brains out, I have that right' ... I don't believe [a helmet law] is an infringement on personal rights."

But council member Steve Taylor reserves the right to bust his brains out. "I think it is of the utmost importance for every person who rides a bike to take the proper precautions," he prefaces. "I believe, though, that it is an issue of personal responsibility to yourself and your family." He cites the dangers "of just stepping out the door in the morning" and wonders why, if the government is so concerned about the social cost of health care, it's not cracking down on teenage smokers or penalizing teenage pregnancy.

Taylor's opinion appears to be in the minority on the council, as it was in public testimony last week. In fact, only one group, the parents of a 15-year-old girl killed earlier this month while riding her bike without a helmet in the Valley, spoke up at the meeting to oppose the rule. "I don't feel that it is the right of our government to decide whether I wear a helmet or not," said Staci Schlerf, the girl's mother.

The second reading of this ordinance is scheduled for the Spokane Valley City Council's June 28 meeting, clearing the way for a final vote on the matter.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Skunked
  • Skunked

    Why Spokane County Commissioners passed a temporary ban on new outdoor pot farms without telling anyone
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Prisoner Problems
  • Prisoner Problems

    Computer errors continue to plague state Department of Corrections; plus, Washington ranked first in pro-charter-school policies
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • In Defense of Refugees
  • In Defense of Refugees

    In the aftermath of the presidential election, local residents seek ways to love and support their refugee friends
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Today | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed
Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science

Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 6

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Joel Smith

Most Commented On

  • Unfinished Business

    Isaiah Wall wants to get his life on track. But first, he's gotta buy drugs for the police
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • This Isn't Normal

    America has gone down this road before, and it's a dead end
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


green zone


marijuana


trail mix


Comment


Readers also liked…

  • The <i>Real</i> Rachel Dolezal
  • The Real Rachel Dolezal

    The story goes far beyond just a white woman portraying herself as black
    • Jun 17, 2015
  • Toxic Tokes?
  • Toxic Tokes?

    The cannabis industry seeks regulations allowing more pesticides; others say that's a problem
    • Jun 24, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation