Out of Touch With Oregon Parents

member_photoI just got a response from Representative Greenlick to my letter. I must say, even with his urging for “the bicycling community to be patient and to engage the process calmly and productively” I am even more frustrated now than I was yesterday when I held out hope that there was simply a misunderstanding about the bill.  But no, it appears that Rep. Greenlick really thinks this is a good conversation to have and that it’s for “the safety of young children on bikes” that we should be discussing this bill.

What also gets my goad is that this is labeled as something that the “bicycling community” needs to have a civil discourse on.  This isn’t about cyclists, this is about parents, choice, freedom, sustainability, health and our kids.  I know a lot of parents in my work who would not label themselves as “cyclists” but they sure want to be able to bike with their kids!

There are so many areas where Rep. Greenlick is off the mark that I think it’s easiest if you just read the letter yourself (though hopefully you already got one since you e-mailed him already… you did email him right…).  The concern of the safety of children on bicycles should be SO low on our priority list that I look forward to the day when we can talk about it more, once we’ve solved all the REAL problems of safety out there, like motorists not yielding for pedestrians, unsafe roadway design, lack of enforcement of speeding/texting/distracted/reckless driving, a lack of a bike/ped education programs in our schools, unequal spending on transportation choices, and about 100 other items of importance.

Rep. Greenlicks letter:

January 13, 2011

Statement by State Representative Mitch Greenlick (HD 33) on HB 2228

I have spent my life as a health researcher.  During the 1990s I was professor and chair of the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the School of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.  I have been a member of the Oregon House of Representatives since 2003 and currently co-chair the House Health Care Committee.  As a health researcher and as a legislator I have pushed hard to improve the health and safety of our citizens, including promoting measures (such as safe-routes to schools) that increase the opportunity for safe bicycling in Oregon.  I introduced HB 2228 because I am not convinced that we are doing all we can to protect the health and safety of young children who join their parents bicycling on the streets and roads of Oregon.

Researchers at OHSU recently completed a study of serious riders, those who bike to work on a regular basis.  The study found that, on average, about 30% of those riders suffer a traumatic injury each year and that about 8% of those riders suffer an injury serious enough to require medical attention.  I was not able to resist asking myself what would have happened to a young child strapped into a seat on the bike when the rider suffered that serious traumatic injury.  The study clearly leads us to work to reduce the environmental hazards that make those injuries more likely.  But when I began looking for data on the safety of young children on bikes, it is clear that data are simply not available.

My children were born in the late 1950s.  Back then we would put the three kids in the back of a station wagon and let them bounce freely around the car while we traveled the country.  It never occurred to us that we were putting them in danger.  The cars did not even have safety belts in those days.  We have learned that this is not a safe way to transport kids.  We now require safety belts, safe car-seats for infants, and we exclude small kids from the front seats of cars with air-bags.  Consequently, we have dramatically reduced auto crash fatality-rates for children over the decades.  By the same token I do not believe there is a parent in Oregon who would want to risk the safety of their young children if they really believed it was risky to put them on a bicycle.

I introduced HB 2228 to begin what I hope will be a rational discussion to assure we were doing everything possible to improve the safety of bicycle transportation in Oregon.  This bill is not an anti-cycling bill.  In fact, it is a pro-cycling bill that will focus on creating a safe cycling experience for Oregon’s children.  There is so much we don’t know about this topic.  I hope this process will reduce the heat in the debate and increase the light.

I urge the bicycling community to be patient and to engage the process calmly and productively if the bill gets a hearing in a house committee, as I hope it will.  Let’s try to keep the discourse civil and trust we all want to do what is best for the children of Oregon.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. 2011 January 14
    Olie permalink

    I sympathise with the parents and others opposing this bill. However, I’d like to introduce a controversial (but civil! 🙂 thought into the discussion.

    You write “This isn’t about cyclists, this is about parents, choice, freedom, sustainability, health and our kids.” I urge ALL participants of this discussion to look honestly within themselves and consider whether or not they’ve ever supported the idea of telling OTHER parents what they need to do or not-do, either for their own safety or for the safety of The Children.

    My favorite example of this is smoking bans. Did you support legislature that told other people that they couldn’t buy private property, open a social gathering place, serve food and drink and allow smoking /in their own place of business/…?

    Oh sure — you’ve got 100 rationalizations for why that’s different, but it’s not. It’s the majority group of busy-bodies telling everyone else what they can & can’t do in places and tiems that don’t affect them.

    This isn’t about you or your cause, this is about adult behaviour, choice and freedom.

    “I did not speak out when the nannies came for the smokers, because I was not a smoker.”

    “…And then they came for me.”

    (NOTE: Smoking’s a hot-button for many people. If it sets you off, use a different example. Or reflect on why it is that it sets you off so. Or whatever. The point is the same: it’s not about “your cause” or “my cause” or “bicycles” or “parenting” — it’s about adults acting like adults without the majority busy-bodies sticking their noses all “up in our stuff.”)

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