Oregon Lawmaker Wants to Outlaw Cycling With Young Children

We’d all like to see more legislators take up the cause of cycling safety. Too often however, when the subject of cycling comes up, it’s not the result of calls for common sense reforms that could make cyclists feel safer, such as anti-harassment ordinances and three-foot passing requirements. Instead, many lawmakers seem intent on introducing silly restrictions like the bike registration bill that recently surfaced in New Jersey, or this example from Oregon…

Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) has introduced a bill in the Oregon statehouse that would make it illegal to carry a child six or younger on a bike or bike trailer. The lawmaker says he is motivated by an Oregon Health Sciences University study which found that a significant percentage of bike commuters experienced some type of traumatic injury during the course of a year.

Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland interviewed Greenlick about his proposal, which he says was prompted by his desire “to discuss the issue and start a debate.” Maus writes:

An Oregon lawmaker has zeroed in on this threat: parents cycling with young children. Photo: Bike Portland

Rep. Greenlick has decided that the way to open a debate on an issue is to propose a new law. We have seen this repeatedly backfire in Oregon. In July of 2008, Senator Floyd Prozanski — out of a concern for safety after a friend of his was hit and killed while bicycling — planned a mandatory, all-ages helmet law. After hearing a lot negative feedback about that idea, he wisely pulled the idea out of consideration. In March 2009, Representative Wayne Krieger proposed a mandatory bicycle registration bill. After hundreds of upset emails and phone calls came into his office, the bill ended up dying in committee.

Greenlick has certainly started a debate. Many people have emailed and called his office with their concern that his bill isn’t necessary and that it would be a major step backwards in Oregon’s quest to be the most bike-friendly state in the U.S. Greenlick maintains that he is simply trying to start a discussion. To back up his hunch about safety, he says his office is already looking into studies that might support the idea of the bill. They haven’t found any yet.

When asked if it might be wiser to find such evidence and then introduce a bill, he said, “Because this is just how the process works.” Greenlick acknowledged that he’s heard a lot of feedback from Oregonians concerned about the bill. “Everybody should just stay calm,” he urged, “this is part of a deliberative process.”

It might also be worthwhile for Greenlick’s staff to look into safety issues with the likely alternative to cycling — driving — and allow parents to make their own assessment when it comes to their children’s safety.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition carries a collection of essays by children on the factors that prevent them from walking and biking. And Bike San Diego shares a video of a Parkinson’s Disease patient who bikes — an activity that’s been shown to delay the effects of the disease.