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California Cyclists Have Mixed Reactions To New Bike Helmet Bill

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Cyclists take a President's Day holiday ride along the bike path at Discovery Park in Sacramento, at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

The popular American River Bike Trail starts at Sacramento's Discovery Park, where the Sacramento and American Rivers meet, making it a frequent destination for cyclists.

It’s also just a few minutes from California’s State Capitol, where Democratic state Senator Carol Liu is proposing to extend the state’s requirement that riders under 18 wear helmets or face a $25 fine to all Californians riding bicycles.

The proposal drew mixed reactions from riders passing through the park on the recent President's Day holiday.

“I’m torn, but leaning toward yes,” said Melisa Callison of West Sacramento, who paused to chat during her 30-mile ride up the American River and back. “I kind of get tired of hearing the government trying to protect us from ourself – you know, we’re a nanny state. But I don’t know, on the bike trail? I might say yeah, require it, just because of so many accidents.”

Callison was wearing a helmet. Another rider, also named Melissa, was not. She declined to give her last name but said she drove up from Stockton for a casual ride with a friend.

“I think as adults, we know the dangers that not wearing a helmet could cause,” Melissa said. “And I think it’s our decision if we want to endanger our lives, but kids don’t know any better. So I think it should stick to kids and not adults.”

Reyes and Maria Lozoya of Carmichael discussed whether to wear helmets before leaving for their ride.

“I don’t know, babe, that’s on you,” Maria told Reyes when they were asked their opinion of the bill. “I just asked you, do we need helmets?”

“I know,” Reyes replied. “I said, only kids. I said, we’re only cruising, so we’re only staying on the bike trail.”

Reyes says he would definitely wear a helmet if he were riding on a city street, but doesn’t think it’s necessary for a fun ride on a trail.

Maria says a helmet’s too snug. “If there’s a way they could make them comfortable, just as much as they are safe, it would be more pleasant to wear. I think more adults would wear them,” she says.

The bill’s first committee hearing comes later this spring.