One should always think of safety first when deciding to ride a bicycle, especially in a heavily congested area such as New York City.
Many cyclists will explain that the main reason they do not wear protective bicycle gear is because it is uncomfortable. No one likes to be covered up a lot while they are riding down the street. They claim that it interferes with their ability to properly maneuver the bicycle and could cause them to wreck the bicycle. Other cyclists will explain that the reason they do not use the protective equipment when they ride a bike is because they cannot afford them. Some cyclists even claim that they do not have time to be bothered by putting on and taking off protective equipment. Life is a very fast and busy in New York City and most people do not have time to be bothered by protective equipment while riding their bikes. However, when these cyclists eventually have an accident, they will wish that they had the protective equipment. It is the lack of protective equipment that causes such a high accident and injury rate among bicyclists in New York City.
Because of the increase in head injuries and other serious injuries, many states have proposed and passed laws about wearing helmets and other protective equipment. However, these states have passed the law for children under a certain age requiring them to wear a safety helmet at all times when riding their bicycles. However, not all states have these laws set forth for adults and there are approximately fourteen states that do not have any form of helmet or safety equipment laws in place.
It is a law in New York City and throughout the state of New York for children under the age of 14 to wear a protective helmet while riding a bicycle. If a child is caught without a helmet while riding a bicycle, the police can confiscate the bicycle and place a large fine on the parents. However, once again, there is no law stating that the adult has to wear the helmet in New York City. Nevertheless, there are politicians, community businessmen, and other people from New York City who are working to create and propose stricter laws regarding protective equipment for people of all ages who ride bicycles. It is very difficult to understand why some states would require by law that children wear helmets while riding their bicycles, but not require adults to wear them. Of course, children are more likely to be involved in a bicycle wreck, but nevertheless, adults can also have bicycles wrecks as well.
Some people in New York City think that it is too crowded with automobiles and bicycles on the same street. Many times, there are instances where bicycles will dart out in front of cars without looking making the car stop quickly to avoid hitting the bicycle. Bicycles also tend to hold up and slow down traffic on busy highways and streets. Overall, it is dangerous for bicycles to ride in the streets of New York. However, "If the city's population grows by a million people by 2030, as experts predict, cycling will be necessary to alleviate the strain on the roads and subways, she said." (Melago). With this in mind, the people of New York City decided to construct special lanes especially for cyclists. These would be small, special lanes that are added to each side of the street. They would only be wide enough for a bicycle and they would be clearly marked as bicycle only lanes. Therefore, "On July 8, the city marked the completion of a three-year, $8 million project that brought the total miles of street lanes to 420, and Sadik-Khan declared New York the "bicycling capital of the United States." (Melago). These bicycle lanes not only give the growing number of cyclist a safe place to ride their bikes, it also lessened the rate of bicycle/automobile related accidents. Today, one is able to see bicycle lanes on almost every major street throughout New York City and its surrounding areas.
With the increasing numbers of bicyclists on the streets of New York, the chances of having an accident on the bike also increases. Thus, the need for protective bicycle equipment is essential. Each year, thousands of people are injured or killed in New York City as a result of riding a bicycle in such a busy area. Many cyclists are not willing to wear protective equipment while riding their bike to prevent themselves from getting seriously injured, so the possibility of these cyclists obtaining a serious injury is very high. When people are riding bicycles, no matter if it is in a busy section of town or on a rural road, the need for protective equipment such as helmets, gloves, long pants, jackets, and sunglasses is warranted. One needs to assure their safety and the safety of others while riding a bicycle. Currently, there is no law in the state of New York that states that anyone over the age of 14 must wear protective equipment while on a bicycle. However, the need for such a law is very urgent considering the increasing number of cyclists on the streets of New York City.
On the contrary, some people believe that an enforced helmet law in New York would do much more harm than good. "Studies have determined that the helmet is even counter-productive, where it became mandatory, the use of bicycles decreased dramatically, and the less there are bikes in the streets, the less drivers get accustomed to their presence. Dutch do not wear helmets, and they know about bicycles." (Alter) The people who choose not to wear a helmet are those who believe that they will not get into an accident. They are more concerned with how the helmet looks on their head rather than their own safety.
However, studies have shown that people who do wear bicycle helmets when riding have less accidents and they are more likely to follow the traffic laws. They seem to be more responsible in regards to safety and proper technique for riding their bicycle. "Cyclists who chose to wear helmets commit fewer traffic violations, have higher socioeconomic status, are more likely to wear high visibility clothing and use lights at night." (Alter)
In conclusion, bicycle riding in New York City is the most popular mode of transportation among people from all ages, races, and backgrounds. Not only are bicycles more cost efficient, they also promote a cleaner, safer environment and provide a healthier life style for the cyclists. It is an ideal way to get from point A to point B. And back to Point A again. Today, it is estimated that more than 200,000 bicycles pass through the busy New York streets along with cars, trucks, and buses. Now is the time to consider newer, more stricter bicycle laws regarding protective equipment in New York City. Some people believe that such a law would convince people to stop riding their bikes. Others believe it is something that is definitely essential since the number of cyclists has increased dramatically over the course of the last few years. If people are going to be safe bike riders, then need to put safety first. One will have a much more enjoyable bike ride or commute when they know that they are protected, not only by law, but also by the protective equipment that they are wearing. "the effect of unpopular helmet laws on cycling activity is readily seen. In Melbourne, surveys were conducted pre-law in May 1990 and post-law in May 1991, at the same 64 sites and same observation times. Counts of child and adult cyclists declined by 42% and 29% respectively. In total, 297 more helmeted cyclists were counted than pre-law, compared with 1100 fewer cyclists. It's as if the law didn't so much encourage helmet wearing as discourage cycling"! (Alter)
It is very evident that the benefits of riding a bicycle in the streets of New York city far outweigh the disadvantages. However, in order for these benefits to be truly successful, one needs to ride responsibly and wear the helmets and other protective gear available where ever bicycles are sold.
Alter, Lloyd. Do Bicycle Helmet Laws do More Harm than Good? 04/29/09. http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/04/bike-helmets-helmet-laws.php.
Melago, Carrie. Cyclists, Pedestrians, and Cars Clash over Biking Boom in New York City. Daily News. 08/16/2009. http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2009/08/16/2009-0816_biking_boom_in_new_york_city_sets_off_clash_between_cyclists_pedestrians_and_car.html.
Helmet Laws for Bicycle Riders. http://www.bhsi.org/mandator.htm.