Proposed state law would make helmets mandatory for cyclists

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Cyclists are taking to city streets in record numbers. With bikes being far more available for even a short ride on those busy streets, concern over rider safety is increasing. A new law proposes to do something about that by requiring helmets for everyone who cycles.

At Mike's Bikes in San Jose, employee Khalil Miller describes his near-death cycling experience.

"If I wasn't wearing a helmet, then I probably would not be here talking today," Miller said. "I ended up taking a turn way too hard, bike slipped out, I slid into an oncoming car, and I ended up hitting my head on the car, and my helmet just exploded."

Miller is a helmet enthusiast, and he's certainly not alone.

"There's a lot that can happen. There are always a lot of risks and some unforeseen circumstances when you're out on the road. It's just better to protect yourself when you come up against that," Michae Musick, a bicyclist.

A proposed state law would require all adults to wear helmets while riding their bikes. Advocacy groups, such as the California Bicycle Coalition believe it could discourage bicycling, saying the state should invest in infrastructure to make local streets safer.

In Willow Glen, a section of Lincoln Avenue was just converted to one lane in each direction, as part of a test run.

Mike Lunares of Orangetheory Fitness says he's already noticed a difference.

"It's caused people to be a little bit more cautious and aware of their surroundings," Lunares said. "So for instance, the bike lane, people know there's a bike lane in Willow Glen, so it's just one more thing to be on the lookout for. So yeah, definitely it benefits as far as the safety
goes."

Bicycling is a popular activity throughout the region. In fact, the Bay Area bike share program, a pilot effort in five local cities, has seen nearly 500,000 trips since being introduced in 2013.

Program officials may look into installing helmet check-out stations down the road.

The proposed law is welcome news for Dr. Justin Wang, who works in the emergency room at Regional Medical Center of San Jose. He consistently sees injured bicyclists who weren't wearing helmets.

"The ones that don't, can have serious head trauma, including bleeding in the brain, long-term concussions, and even chronic disabilities, like inability to move certain extremities and what not," Wang said.

The proposed law will get another look later this spring.
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