There are a handful of larger cities in the United States whose political leaders while trying to resolve issues, instead, make things worse, but are never held accountable by the voters.
Seattle, Washington is a prime example.
In January, the Seattle Police Department due to racism and equity concerns announced that it would no longer enforce certain non-criminal traffic violations. They also de-prioritized expired vehicle registrations and bicycle helmet violations.
Now, King County home to Seattle is following suit by removing the helmet requirement for all county bicyclists.
Despite acknowledging that bike helmets “provide a 63-88% reduction in the risk of head and brain injuries for people who ride bikes,” the King County Board of Health voted, 11 to 2, to repeal the helmet mandate, originally passed in 1993, because of accusations that the law was disproportionately enforced against people of color and homeless people.
“Helmets save lives, full stop. But the disproportional enforcement of the requirement gives us concern,” said King County Councilmember Joe McDermot. “When the Board of Health first adopted a helmet mandate, helmets weren’t part of our social norms and our culture, and so the legal requirements for helmets was new and carried weight. But I think societal norms and expectations have changed significantly in the 30 years since.”
“Seattle Police Department data collected and analyzed by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and the Helmet Law Working Group shows that police disproportionately gave helmet law citations to black, indigenous, and people of color cyclists,” states the press release from the Public Health Insider for Seattle and King County.
“Their analysis found that black riders were nearly four times as likely to be cited by police for not wearing a helmet while biking compared to white riders,” the analysis reads. “Further, in Seattle, nearly half of the citations issued for biking without a helmet were given to people living homeless.”
“The recent action from the Board of Health removes a policy that has resulted in racist enforcement while re-emphasizing the importance of wearing a bike helmet coupled with County resources to make bike safety more accessible for all,” said Dennis Worsham – interim director for Public Health in Seattle and King County. Read more