As posted on BikePortland and numerous other places around the internet yesterday, Oregon State Representative Mitch Greenlick has proposed a new bill which would make it illegal to carry a child 6 years old or younger on or in a bicycle or bike trailer in Oregon.
And next it will be to make it illegal to cross the road with a stroller, because people pushing babies in strollers get hit at crosswalks by people driving. Sorry, I’m feeling a bit snarky.
Representative Greenlick says in his interview with Jonathan Maus of BikePortland that the safety of children is his primary concern in introducing this bill, and makes the argument that “If I thought a law would save one child’s life, I would step in and do it. Wouldn’t you?”
So here is my problem with all of this. If Representative Greenlick was really concerned about the safety of people on bicycles, he wouldn’t be introducing legislature to ban them from the roads, he would be introducing legislature to give them better access to the roads.
Representative Greenlick says he just introduced the legislature as a way to start a discussion about the issue and to initiate research on the matter. But again, if he is really concerned about the safety of children, why doesn’t he start a discussion of the fact that the single biggest killer of children in the U.S. is automobile traffic? Why not initiate research into how we could calm automobile traffic so that fewer people are put at risk in the first place, rather than initiate discussion that is only likely to result in more fear, and more people being forced off the roads to “keep them out of harm’s way”.
Then there is the “if it would save even one person’s life…” argument. Mitch, if you want to save peoples’ lives in the transportation realm, do something about automobile traffic. I don’t know if you noticed, but out of the past three years in Portland, two have gone by without a single person dying while riding a bicycle. It’s cars that are causing deaths on our roads (I don’t mean this as a statement that people who drive are any different from other people, just simply as a factual statement that the automobile in the picture causes a death where there wouldn’t have been one otherwise), and that includes our children. Stop giving people the “bicycles are dangerous” talk and start doing something that will actually help improve the safety of our roads. By making people afraid of walking or cycling, or by simply forcing them not to do it, you’re putting people into a destructive loop that will only decrease the safety of everyone.
Why, once again, is it so hard to get people to think about the root causes of safety issues, and not punish the vulnerable for being vulnerable? Let’s educate people about the few situations when they might want to think twice about riding a bike or putting their child on/in it, trust their then-educated common sense, and after that, work to give all people fair and safe access to the roads. Banning children from bicycles is not going to improve road safety.