Last week Representative Mitch Greenlick of SW Portland introduced HB 2228, which would make it illegal to transport a child under the age of 6 on a bicycle, either on the bike or in a trailer attached to the bike. Violators would be subject to a fine of up to $90. Members of the bike community are upset because they often take their children along on trips in such trailers. A company in Eugene, Burley Design, is upset because it makes and sells child trailers, and employs 18 people. Retailers are upset because as biking grows in Portland, they sell the trailers to give families a chance to be out together, and by banning the trailers, it cuts into their business. The trailers they sell have met ASTM standards for safety.
Greenlick has caught a great deal of flack for his idea, which he developed after reviewing a study done by OHSU that showed 20% of bike commuters had suffered a traumatic injury in the past year, and 5% needed medical attention as a result of their injury. He worried about what would happen to a child in a trailer behind a bike involved in such an accident, but he did not know of any studies done regarding the safety of or rate of injury to children in trailers or on the backs of bikes. He has since backpedaled to say hearings are needed to gather information. To propose the bill first, without the necessary information, was the wrong order, since he is not even sure that a problem exists. He states that this is a similar issue to seat belts in cars, which were not even required for adults, let alone children, 60 years ago.
Besides upsetting the biking community and his constituents, the bill has two other problems. First, it diverts attention and resources away from fixing Oregon’s economy, and if the bill were to pass, could actually harm the economy further by potentially putting an Oregon company out of business and causing more layoffs. Second, and more importantly, it causes a further intrusion of government into our personal lives, telling parents that the state knows better how to raise their children than they do. If he wished to commission a study, which perhaps might lead to different safety standards, then surely there are students at PSU or OHSU who could conduct this study and report their findings to the legislature. To create a bill aimed at a ban on a popular form of transporting children, is merely the nanny state extending further, and ignores the message sent by the TEA party in the November elections, that voters want smaller, more efficient government, not more.