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HomenewsIf Passed, New Jersey's Helmet Regulation for Adults Would Be the First...

If Passed, New Jersey’s Helmet Regulation for Adults Would Be the First of Its Kind in the United States.

If a bill succeeds, New Jersey may be the first state to require adult bike and scooter helmets.

After his wife and kid had a scooter accident in Washington D.C., State Assemblyman Reginald Atkins, D-Union, submitted the legislation to NJ Advance Media.

I heard a thump and looked back… “My daughter and wife were on the ground,” Atkins added. Knee and foot wounds. If it’s on their head, we’re in trouble.”

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Jersey has enforced bike and scooter helmets for kids for years. Atkins, Chaparro, and Spearman introduced A4894 to extend the state’s helmet law to adult bike and scooter riders, including electrics.

“We have regulations that say you have to wear a helmet for motorcyclists, seat belts if you’re in a car, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have safety precautions for scooters and bikes… to me it makes sense,” Atkins added.

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The regulation discourages biking and doesn’t address the main causes of fatal car and bike crashes—poor road design and reckless driving. Bike advocacy groups may protest it.

In 1992, New Jersey was the first to mandate helmets for under-14s. Roller skates, inline skates, and skateboards were added in 1998, youngsters under 17 in 2005, and scooters in 2011.

23 states and DC require child helmets.

Adult helmet rules make reasonable, Atkins said.

“We want New Jerseyans safe,” he said.

This year, 16 New Jersey bicycle crashes killed people. Last year, 26 cyclists died, a 10-year high.

The proposed law has no penalties. Atkins said fines and other details must be resolved.

“We need to vet that—there should be some monetary value,” he said.

Initial state kid helmet law violators are warned. The state bike manual penalizes negligent parents $25 for the first offense and $100 for successive offenses.

The bill requires approval from both houses of the state Legislature and the governor.

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“I’m open-minded,” Gov. Phil Murphy told NJ Advance Media Wednesday. “I think our state prides itself on sensible safety-related things, especially for our kids.”

Atkins advised assessing the bill’s impact on bike and scooter shares.

Asbury Park Link scooter rental firm Superpedestrian declined to comment.

Superpedestrian spokeswoman Jamie Perkins said the corporation had no opinion on the bill. “We constantly advocate e-scooter helmets.”

Four bike advocacy groups backed helmet use, but a helmet law could discourage cycling.

Helmet laws misrepresent cycling as dangerous, according to New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition executive director Debra Kagen. “Our streets should be safer for bicycles, not requiring safety gear.”

She said most adults use helmets and established recreational cycling organizations need them for events.

Kagan said helmet laws could discourage bicycling and make it less safe. We favor bike safety but no helmet laws.
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Advocates also noted that New Zealand’s helmet law reduced the cycling and that bike-riding countries have the lowest death rates.

Kagan is concerned about how helmet laws will affect the working poor, immigrants, and people of color who cycle for movement and labor. She stated that King County helmet laws caused “less equitable mobility and discrimination.”

Kagan said these laws are unenforceable and racially biased. “Discrimination against low-income and people of color inhibits bicycling because riding is a low-cost form of transportation and the increased cost is another barrier.”

“We need to work through the logistics so no one feels a threat to them or their livelihood,” he said. “Adjust it and see.”

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Bike advocates said helmet laws ignore other crash dangers.

Tony Borelli, Bike JC’s vice president, stated, “It’s not that cyclists will be inconvenienced. It’s that the inconvenience will undoubtedly lead some persons to ride less, or never become bikers, and that’s horrible enough for general safety and health” (Jersey City). Some will drive, risking safety and health.

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Others said it ignores safer ideas like Complete Streets to design roadways for everyone.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Liam Blank labeled this bill victim-blaming because it only addresses cycling injuries and deaths.

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“Forcing bikers to dress for urban warfare is pointless. Complete Streets policies—designed to protect cyclists from risky drivers—make cycling safer.

Tom Hennigan, president of the Jersey Off-Road Bicycle Association, supported state-wide bike lanes.

Hennigan continued, “Cars hitting bikers is the main issue.” Protected bike lanes work.

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