The Dallas City Council may soon decide that requiring adults to wear bike helmets is a stupid idea -- and if the city is indeed serious about starting a bike-share program, it probably is.
But the helmet law is at least aimed at achieving a legitimate public policy goal (i.e. keeping people from suffering potentially fatal head injuries). Other provisions of Dallas' bicycling law (Chapter 9 of city code) don't share that virtue.[jump]
Take Section 9-2:
BICYCLES PROHIBITED IN PUBLIC BUILDINGS.
No person shall carry, push, propel or ride an assembled or operable bicycle in any public building in the city.
First of all, what do they mean by "public buildings"? Are they referring to buildings that are generally open to the public, like maybe the Oak Lawn office building where I daily roll my bike through the lobby, up the elevator and into the cubicle I've claimed on its behalf? Or -- more likely -- is this a reference merely to city-owned buildings?
Keith Manoy, a senior transportation planner with the city who spends a good deal of time on bike issues, isn't sure, though he had put in a request for clarification with the city attorney's office when we called this morning.
Assuming it's just city-owned buildings, you still have to wonder at what point in Dallas history this became such a scourge that it demanded City Council action. Plus, what about the environmentally minded city employees who ride their bikes to work and don't want them to get stolen?
OK, so that one's more pointless than outright stupid. Let's move on to Section 9-3:
STUNT RIDING; RACING, ETC.
No rider of any bicycle shall remove both hands from the handle bars or feet from the pedals, or practice any acrobatic or stunt riding upon any street, nor shall any person operating a bicycle upon a street participate in any race for speed or any endurance contest.
In other words, everything you used to do on your bike when you were 12. Woe be to you if a disgruntled cops catches you mid-wheelie, and woe be to the parent who's kid popped said wheelie, which is covered by Section 9-5:
RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENT OR GUARDIAN.
The parent of any child and the guardian of any ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit any such child or ward who would not be subject to prosecution in the municipal court to violate any of the provisions of this chapter.
So, instead of just focusing just on helmets, maybe Dallas can repeal all its bike laws, except maybe the one keeping cyclists off Central and LBJ. That one makes sense.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.