Helmet laws? Put a bandaid on a flesh wound.
By Ray Rivera
New York Times, March 29, 2007
Businesses that use bicycle delivery workers will have to give them
helmets, require that they wear them and ensure that the bikes are
safe, under legislation signed into law yesterday by Mayor Michael R.
The new laws, which will affect thousands of businesses in the city’s
thriving bicycle-messenger and food-delivery industries, were passed by
the City Council earlier this month with overwhelming support. They are
set to take effect on July 26.
Under one law, businesses must provide helmets, at the business owners’
expense, to employees who use bicycles as part of their work, and
require that workers wear them.
The bill also requires business owners to ensure that every bicycle
used by employees as part of their work, regardless of who owns it, is
equipped with safety devices required by state vehicle and traffic
laws, including reflective devices and properly working brakes.
The second law requires business owners to prominently display signs in
their businesses, where employees can see them, summarizing bicycle
safety laws and regulations. The signs must be in English, Spanish and
any other language predominantly spoken by a company’s delivery
“In addition to enhancing the safety of pedestrians traversing the
city’s streets, these bills will help protect our city’s hard-working
delivery personnel, many of whom are immigrants who speak a language
other than English,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
The city does not keep separate statistics on injuries and deaths
involving bicycle messengers and delivery workers. On average, there
are 23 bicycle fatalities in the city each year, and in 94 percent of
those cases, the rider was not wearing a helmet, according to a 2006
city report. Nearly three-quarters of the deaths were caused by head
In September, Reginald Chan, the owner of Jade Mountain, a Chinese
restaurant in the East Village, died of head injuries he sustained when
he was struck by a truck while making a food delivery on a bicycle.
News reports at the time did not indicate whether he was wearing a
helmet, and Police Department records were not available yesterday.
David J. Louie, the chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, began
pushing for the tougher safety standards for restaurant bicycle
delivery workers after a delivery woman was killed in a similar
accident in Chinatown in the summer of 2004. That year, Mr. Louie
approached City Councilman Alan Gerson, who introduced the helmet
legislation that fall. The bill moved slowly through the Council before
it was passed on March 14.
“I’m glad it was signed today,” Mr. Louie said. “But I wish it was
signed five months earlier. If the law was signed in August, maybe we
would have had one less fatality.” He was referring to Mr. Chan’s
Mr. Gerson called the bicycle delivery workers “part of the commercial
fabric of our lives in New York City,” who deserve protection.
Louis Nunez, president of the Latino Restaurant Association, said his
members strongly supported the measure. The group represents some 2,800
restaurants in New York City, about 35 percent of which make
deliveries, Mr. Nunez said.
“We surveyed our members and they have all agreed it’s a good bill” and
are willing to pay for the helmets, he said.
The mayor also signed into law yesterday a bill strengthening
domestic-partner benefits for city workers. domestic partners employed
by the city already receive virtually every benefit that married
couples receive. The new law requires that any future benefits for
married couples also be provided to domestic partners.
This will include bicycle messengers as well...Ok, here is my opinion. I think there is a thing called common sense, if you chose not to wear a helmet it is YOUR choice. All too often laws like this are selectively enforced so the city can find new ways to make money. As much as I think it is a good idea to wear a helmet when you ride a bicycle in NYC, it doesn't need to be a law. This is one step closer to a citywide law for all cyclists to wear helmets, which is just what this city is hungry for in its war on intimidating bicyclists. Now, if this law is enforced to business, maybe it is a good thing, but I believe the common situation will be low wage workers working for food companies who are already habitually riding the wrong way down a one way street on a sidewalk (putting pedestrians in constant peril) will be stopped by low wage officers who now only make $25,000 a year and are looking to fill quotas in order for advancement. These workers will be too scared to blame their companies and end up having more tickets and violations against them. A plastic shelled piece of styrofoam may help in a little car crash, but will do nothing for the most common injury to food delivery people...Theft! I hear of court cases where juveniles are bored and want to look cool in front of their friends so they are jumping food service delivery people and beating them up. If Bloomberg is SO concerned about cyclists well being, why doesn't he demand companies using bicycle couriers pay health insurance? In the case of bicycle messengers, they are often not supported by their companies and considered independent contractors...this gets messenger companies out of paying expensive health insurance to one of the most dangerous jobs in NYC. The helmet is like a false sense of security...its like saying to an employer..."Here, you must give them this piece of plastic to your employees and now we don't have to deal with the REAL issues like how we are going to do nothing to make more room for cyclists...why should we, we gave them all helmets...bye." I have to say I don't like it. I believe in making incentives for business to protect their employees, but laws? When was this decided? What was the civic input or is this just like parade laws which our city government enacts while we are asleep.
Bloomberg once again has put a band-aid on a gapping laceration to the lower abdomen. See you at Critical Mass tonight when our mayors idea of helping cyclists will be to spend millions of dollars to spy on on and attack us…don’t forget your helmet.