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Dallas Changes Bike Helmet Law

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – When Phyllis Patre rolls through her M-streets neighborhood, she’s reminded just how safe bike helmets make her ride.  It’s personal.  “Yes, my husband had an accident last year and broke his jaw,” she tells CBS 11 News.  “I think they would have prevented such a serious injury.  He was not wearing a helmet when he had the accident.”

It was her kind of story that motivated council members to argue against weakening the current “everybody-must-wear-a-helmet” ordinance, no matter their age.

“It is a safety issue,” council member Vonciel Jones Hill said of the existing ordinance.  “I recognize that grown people should be able to make their own decisions; however, I also recognize that in many areas government regulates personal behavior.  This is a behavior that I believe should be regulated and that I believe would push adults in the area of greater safety.”

But the majority felt the broad-brush ban will stifle nascent bike sharing programs planned for Fair Park and downtown.  How could they provide sanitized helmets for users or tourists who don’t have one?  Fort Worth’s current bike sharing program faced a similar barrier.  It also worried about losing so-called “spontaneous riders.”  The city elected not to mandate helmets for those 18 and older.

Dallas took a similar tactic today.  “I think adults are intelligent enough to make their own decisions,” council member Bill Callahan argued, saying many existing ordinances are not fully enforced.  “It’s easy to come in here and say, ‘Let’s ban it let’s make a law.’  But we have laws against 8-liners, they’re illegal and they’re in all the convenience stores.”

The vote was 15-3 in favor of back pedaling on the one-helmet-fits-all ban.

Still, even those favoring the change urge riders to don their hard hats anyway…it’s just smart cycling.

At White Rock Lake, Troy Shull had his own story as he jogged with his nephew, who accompanied him on a bike.  “Last year, I was out here biking and my front tire blew out—after that I always made sure I had a helmet.”  He went on, “If you fall off and crack your head it really doesn’t matter about the age. So I think it’s just a good idea for anyone that’s riding a bike to wear a helmet, just for safety reasons.”

Shull’s generation has also embraced helmets as fashionably cool; it’s a harder sell for those his nephew Vincent Shull’s age.   “I have 21-people in my class and only five wear helmets,” 10-year-old Vincent said.  Still, he is a believer and proudly showed his helmet as he accompanied his uncle.  “It can help you not crack your head…too much.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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