Oregon Bicycle Enthusiasts in Uproar Over Proposed Ban on Young Children on Bikes

By Lynne Terry
The Oregonian
January 13, 2011

Marko Muellner and his three daughters demonstrate the new bike that they see as a replacement for a family car. Joel Davis/The Oregonian

Portland’s avid biking community spun into an uproar today over a proposed ban geared towards young children on bikes.

House Bill 2228 introduced by Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), would amend an Oregon statute that bans unlawful passengers on a bike by making it illegal to carry a child younger than 6 either on the bike or in a trailer. The bill includes a fine of $90.

“The bill itself is just ridiculous,” said Jonathan Maus, editor of the popular blog, bikeportland.org.

Other avid bikers got more personal, calling Greenlick “an idiot” in angry emails.

“I’ve got about 100 emails this morning,” Greenlick said.

A former director of public health at Oregon Health & Science University, Greenlick said the bill was prompted by an OHSU study on injuries among serious bikers.

“It indicated that about 30 percent on average had a traumatic injury each year and about 8 percent had one serious enough to get medical attention,” Greenlick said, “so it really got me thinking about what happens if there’s a 4-year-old on the back of that bike when a biker goes down.”  Read more…

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One Response to Oregon Bicycle Enthusiasts in Uproar Over Proposed Ban on Young Children on Bikes

  1. iblockthebikelane says:

    By Jim Moore
    Special to The Oregonian
    February 05, 2011

    Everything rides on this: A dad thinks hard about the bike crash he and 5-year-old experienced

    I lay on my back on the pavement, trying to process the sheer violence of what just happened. Getting knocked off your bike by a car creates a frozen moment where your personal world is tumbled like a sock in a dryer. Your shaken brain takes a few seconds to bring you back to the present.

    OK, I got hit. I’m alive; I’m aware. And I hear a high-pitched wail of fear and pain. But it’s not my own scream. Oh, my God, it’s my son. My 5-year-old son, Dylan, was riding behind me on his tagalong. He’s down, and he’s hurt. I have to help him.

    But my head bounced off the pavement so hard that my neck is completely incapacitated; I can’t lift my head or even move it. I can’t see him, and I can’t go to him. I can only hear him.

    This is my worst moment as a parent.

    That accident happened four months ago. Thanks to the compassion of bystanders, the competent care of emergency and health workers, and the support of family and friends, we got through it remarkably well.

    Dylan was kept in the hospital overnight but emerged with nothing broken and no long-term injuries. I was released from the emergency room that night, although I had to pick my head up with both my hands to stand up from the bed.

    But as I waited in the emergency room for the results of CAT scans and X-rays, questions raced through my mind. What do I do now? Who will pay for all this? When can I ride again? And, of course, the worst one: Is it my fault my son got hurt?

    If you ride a bike long enough, you’re going to go down. It may be an embarrassing failed clip-out at a stoplight, or a touch of wheels on a group ride, or a slide-out on a slick rail track. Or it could be a collision with a motor vehicle.

    I’ve read various statistics on this, but the one that sticks with me says that a cyclist will have a significant accident, on average, about every 7,000 miles. Of course, averages mean nothing on an individual basis; I rode more than 20,000 accident-free miles before getting hit, but it also could happen on someone’s first ride.

    In our case, I was riding home with Dylan from his kindergarten after-school program, heading east through our North Portland neighborhood. He was on a tagalong, a sort of one-wheeled add-on bike with its own seat, pedals and handlebars that attaches to the seat post of my bike. A car approaching us, heading west into the setting sun, suddenly made a left turn, running directly into us. The driver said he never saw us. Thankfully, the car hit me and not Dylan; he was thrown clear.

    Accidents can be startlingly random. I’m a cautious rider, particularly with my son behind me. But almost anytime you’re riding on a street, there’s going to be car-bike interaction — and it can turn dangerous in a split second.

    So, given the current debate raging in Portland about State Rep. Mitch Greenlick’s proposal to ban young children from riding with their parents, our accident shines a spotlight right on the issue: I put him behind me on that bike, and he got hurt. So what do I say about that?

    As you might imagine, I’ve thought about this lately. A lot. And it comes down to one simple thing for me: It’s my job — as it is every parent’s — to raise my son the way I think is best.

    My wife and I are paying tribute to our parents in the finest way I can think of: We’re striving to raise our child the way they raised us. And, as it relates to this issue, that means we are not going to build a protective cocoon for him. We want him to make some mistakes, to keep score and lose sometimes, to see what dirt tastes like, to try some things that might hurt. That worked really well for us, growing up.

    So Dylan and I seek adventures. And we’ve been riding together since he was about a year old; our Cycle Oregon Weekends and trips to the waffle shack or the park are shared times we both treasure. He asks me — begs, sometimes — to ride. It’s healthy, it’s green and it’s something we can do together all our lives.

    And, yes, it’s also dangerous. But every time I strap him into his car seat he faces a higher level of bodily danger. Every time we fly in a plane we could plunge to our death. Every time we take a piece of Halloween candy from a neighbor we don’t know that well, my son could be poisoned. Hey, a meteor could land on our house.

    The point is, there is a continuum of danger that’s inherent in every moment of our lives. As a parent, you draw the boundaries on that continuum for your child. For me, the benefits of riding together outweigh the risks — even after we got hit.

    Kids are amazingly resilient. It wasn’t more than two days after the accident that Dylan asked when we could ride again. (“Just not on that street, Daddy.”)

    When he had healed up, I asked if he wanted to go for a ride. He said yes, but I feared that the reality of getting on a bike again would be too much for him. Frankly, I wasn’t sure putting him on our bike wouldn’t be too much for me.

    I positioned our bike in an alley behind our house, where cars were unlikely. He hopped on, and I cautiously started forward. We built up some momentum, and I waited for his reactions. And then he quickly lapsed into a riding habit I’ve always found to be endearingly quirky — and this day, tremendously reassuring.

    He started to sing.

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