"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

Proposed HB 2228, ban for kids on parent's bikes and trailers, thinks wrong

Update: Jules Bailey tells Bike Portland he and Greenlick have agreed to alter the proposed bill to instead call for a study of family biking. I've written asking Greenlick apologize for jumping into this conversation by demonizing parents who choose to put their children on bicycles (and comparing this to the seatbelt debate in the 1950s); I hope he does so.

Representative Mitch Greenlick has sponsored proposed House Bill 2228, which would make it illegal to carry children aged six and under on bicycles, including trailers and trail-a-bikes, punishable by a maximum fine of $90. He tells Bike Portland he did it to keep children safe; while he has no statistics on children's death, he does have a study on adult males, who often are injured when they crash on their bike. He said, "if it's true that it's unsafe [for a four-year-old to ride on his parent's bike], we have an obligation to protect people. If I thought a law would save one child's life, I would step in and do it. Wouldn't you?" His email address is rep.mitchgreenlick@state.or.us; his district office phone number is (503) 297-2416. (He represents NW Portland; Jules Koppel, (503) 986-1442, represents my SE neighborhood. Find your representative here. Katie wrote this letter, inviting Rep. Greenlick to Kidical Mass on Saturday. Here's another letter.)

The four of us who founded urbanMamas didn't all start out six or seven years ago as the things we are today: competitive and eager runners, whole food-conscious, green-minded, three-kid-having, family bike activists. It's happened, as much because of the place we lived and the people we live around -- we're co-inspirators, I've said -- than because of any special long-held personal conviction. The conviction, it's grown on us, and some of it grew like a weed, accidental, perhaps meant to be after all. Native to Portland, Oregon, we're sure.


Biking has become for all of us a personal freedom, an identity, a way of glorious life. It's frugal and emission-free and it changes the dynamic of risk for transportation; instead of putting everyone else on the road in danger, we're putting only ourselves and our children. Given the statistics -- the by-far-and-away-crazy leading cause of death for children is automotive accidents, over a thousand kids die each year and many more are badly injured -- our risk is miniscule. I've looked for statistics on death as bicycle passenger, and can't find them. Julian describes the data as "entirely without denominator." Surely, one day a child or even a dozen will die as passengers on bicycles, probably in a collision with an automobile. It is guaranteed that another thousand children will die next year, and the year after that, as passengers in cars.

We could surely prevent many deaths through punitive laws. We could ban balloons, peanuts, playground structures, swimming pools. We could outlaw bath tubs and pillows. We could ban indoor heat (a large number of children die each year from residential fires, often caused by faulty heating systems). But this isn't what I believe Oregon to be: committed to personal freedoms. Fiercely independent. Avoidant of bias against families with fewer resources. Lovers of the outdoors. Fearless of rain, wind, even the occasional snowflake in our collective face.

Greenlick says he wants to start a conversation. This is the wrong conversation to start. Limits are not needed on bicycling, a choice of transportation which harms no one and is the only option for more and more economically struggling Oregonians each year. I chose the bicycle when I could no longer afford my car; if I can't find bus fare, I can still ride. Parents on bikes are the least militant but most zealous of all of them; highly unlikely to run a red light or go too fast down a hill; hoping with every muscle cell they'll be examples of active, environmentally-sustainable lifestyles for their children. But as irrational as his reasoning on this bill is, I don't believe he's going to be listening.

Someone asked what she should do if she can't put her child on her bike, "Leave him at home? Never leave the house? Purchase a car? If this bill isn't anti-family, then it's anti-woman." Many single mothers (I'm functionally one with my husband in Kuwait) have found new life through biking with their children. Rep. Greenlick, Oregon legislature: don't take this freedom away from them; don't take our choices, our loves away from us.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

WTF is this guy smoking

Would this bill make it illegal to use my child's bike carrier? Is he sponsored by a car company?

this is totally idiotic..the dumbest idea - spend time on real issues.. i grew up riding on the back of my moms bike-the reason why i have ridden ever since..

taking away that pleasure of taking our kids for a ride, that would be a crime.

This is simply ridiculous. I also wonder if he's being funded by the automobile industry. I don't bike with my kids frequently because my commute is ridiculous, but the fact that I might not be able to put my 18 month old in the bike trailer so she can come with my husband, son, and I to bike around the neighborhood on the week-ends is preposterous.

Where I ride, it's scary enough putting my own life on the line on my bike. I would not consider dragging my child behind me (lower than the hood of most cars). But that's the choice I've made based on the risk I associate with the area I need to ride. I do think people should be able to make their own decisions and assess the risk in the areas they ride.

There is no way a bike is more dangerous than a car. This is insane.

Thanks for posting, Sarah. The little bit I've read about this (mostly on Bike Portland) makes me think, optimistically, at least for the moment, that it won't become law. Then again, it really frosts me that Greenlick proposes this as a bill to "open a conversation," without, it seems, any data about biking *with kids* being especially unsafe. Whether it passes or not, a person in power simply by proposing a bill making biking with kids illegal in turn makes people think there must be something inherently dangerous about biking with kids. And that is a step away from the sort of city, state, world that many of us want to move toward.
This morning at the breakfast table I told my kids that this bill had been proposed (they have watched schoolhouse rock enough to know what a bill is, more or less!). They (aged 6 and 3) were utterly puzzled. "Why? I don't get it..." Me neither!

This is ridiculous. He doesn't appear to have thought this through -just jumped in with legislation. I saw the comments about the potential that he is funded by the automobile industry, so I went to ORESTAR to pull down his political contributions received from 2006 to present. As much as I wanted to find a slew of contributions from the automobile industry that would question his motives, he is actually largely funded by the medical community (Nurse PACs, Doctor PACs, health insurance companies), which makes sense since he is in the medical community. Maybe the medical community sees it from a different perspective, but if he feels this strongly about children's safety on bikes, it seems that safety education measures would the right step as opposed to simply banning kids on bikes.

Rather than banning kids on bikes we should be focusing on making biking safer for everyone.

Eh, I'm with toots on this one. What little bit I had my smalls out was on bike paths only. Never on streets with cars. I've had to many close calls as a driver with bikes flying through intersections or being downright invisible, that I don't consider them safe, especially for the smallest of us. I won't support the legislation but I think the guy has a point.

Greenlick also proposed a bill this year that would require all midwives to acquire the same licensing, it's been quite the big deal in the birth community. I'm wondering how on earth he became a representative in Oregon.

aj: yes, it would be illegal to carry your child in a bicycle seat.

momoftwo: how does he have a point? were any of those close calls bicyclists with children on board? I'm wondering if you have any evidence that bicycling with children is unsafe; in my opinion, and according to the epidemiological data, driving is far less safe than riding a bicycle. and if one is interested in keeping children safe, banning a practice that a few people who choose not to practice it simply THINK is risky is absolutely irrational. let's ban practices that have been proven to be unsafe; say, smoking in bed or having open swimming pools and ponds where young children can access them. this slippery slope keeps on sliding.

and do you really think it is o.k. to tell a parent that he or she absolutely must transport his or her children in a motor vehicle for trips that are longer than one can comfortably walk? that is what this legislation does. I feel that should not be constitutional; it's certainly discriminatory. own a car, or stay at home, says this bill, and that can't possibly be accepted by a free society.

The article on KATU's website says this: He said he hopes the bill will start a discussion to determine if children really are at risk. Why not just start a discussion? Also, "... When I began looking for data on the safety of young children on bikes, it is clear that data are simply not available," he said in the email. "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."

Well, if they can't be in a trailer and can't be in a bike seat on the back how are we supposed to bicycle with them? Furthmore, my older son is almost 5 and he is barely interested in riding the trailer anymore, he wants to ride his own bike, which in my opinion would be less safe than the trailer at this point.

Lastly, perhaps a little off point, I think if the "health and safety of young children" is his goal how about overhauling CPS, and then move on to some of the millions of other things they could be doing.

Discriminatory indeed. I don't even regularly ride a bike myself and I just sent an email to the guy. Absolutely insane in my opinion. Who proposes legislation to "start a conversation?"

Unbelievably stupid bill. And thanks for posting where we can send our thoughts.

BikePortland tweeted this, wanted to make sure anyone who came looking at this saw the update:

New on Front Page: Breaking: Greenlick bill to be amended; changed to study only http://bit.ly/iaiCym

I wrote to him as well. The admendment doesn't leave me much comfort as the original language was not well thought through. In his statement in response to the proposing of the bill he says, "We now require safety belts, safe carseats 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." Yet, motor vehicle crashes are STILL the leading cause of death among children in the US! Don't we need to do more on this front by maybe encouring families to consider other ways of making trips with kids...walking, bussing, and *gasp* biking? I know I keep on harking on this point.

Merely proposing this bill is a step backwards for family biking, striking fear in hearts of parents pointing it out as unsafe way of transporting our kids. If motor injuries is the leading cause of death, doesn't that make it an epidemic or something?

I just emailed Mr. Greenlick and I will do my best to encourage biking parents that I know to the same. What a ridiculous bill.

I would be interested in some studies on this. I bike with my kids, and I've often wondered about statistics on the various modes of hauling them.

I wrote an email and then followed up to their stock response about starting a conversation that "introducing legislation to "start a conversation" is a ridiculous premise. You are basically attacking a way of life, which is a pretty aggressive approach to start a battle not a conversation." To which Mitch replied w/his own name "For the record, that is nonsense." Nice diplomatic and grown up response!

Wrote my Rep, Bailey, that I am stunned Greenlick- with all his years of a health care career in private and public service - could miss how economics, environment, and health are tied. And isn't our legislature committed to those very causes?

What is more he called for an unnecessary study - in an era of austerity - on safety of bikes and kids, when comparative info on other methods of transport and any-age biking on health factors exist in prolific numbers. And all to cover his keister on a faux pax.

Thank you, Sarah and UrbanMamas, for once again being on the stick, when the most stupid denominator comes to town and tries to rule the day.

Thanks for this coherent roundup of the situation, Sarah.

The more I look at what's going on, the more I think Greenlick is either a sandwich short of a picnic, or in someone's pocket. There are so many worthwhile things we could spend public health time and money on, and they're obvious to many non-public-health-professionals. Sidewalks in Cully, allowing kids to walk down the block without walking in the street. Restricting automobile use near schools, which is currently creating a high-risk zone for kids and parents walking or biking near schools. The list is endless, and you certainly don't have to be a public health professional to be aware of these problems. If he's really interested in laws that "save one life," let's talk about restricting and regulating the use of cars and guns. Or supporting existing, thriving, successful work being done on safer streets. We could easily save hundreds, maybe thousands of lives. Instead, this?

He's nuts. Or paid off. I'm curious to know which one it is.

mama without instructions: that's just awful. I fear Mitch has utterly lost his capacity to engage in constructive and thoughtful debate / legislation, and that scares me. he gives credence to all those who would shout at us on the streets; and he's not backing down.

It's the mix of bikes and cars on streets that have us non-biking parents worried. Too bad, none of us can say we need more data without someone trying to impugn us. Calling a legislator nuts or crazy just because he has concerns like some of us do.. that's not okay.

I honestly cringe inside when I see some of these tiny kids out there on busy streets, with nothing but a little helmet between them and a two ton car.

This is why we need LESS government, not MORE!

We purchased a bike with bikeseat last year after conducting over a year of exhausting research, debating bike seat vs. trailer, facing family criticism, and my own overwhelming anxiety. I'm still afraid to go out by myself with my 2 year old daughter but my husband rides with us and acts as our lookout/guide and she absolutely LOVES it! The thought of something happening to her is the worse thing I can possibly imagine but I also fear crossing the intersection in front of our home while walking to the park because cars often run the stop sign even when peds are in the cross-walk (with some horribly tragic pedestrian deaths this year – perhaps we should make walking with our children illegal as well). My point is two-fold: 1) instead of teaching our daughter to live fearfully, we strive to teach her to ride knowledgeably and respect the road, and 2) shouldn't this bill be advocating safety for bike riders and their children as well as for adults via passing (and enforcing) vehicle/bike/ped laws, creating dedicated bike lanes/streets/paths, etc?

I have not owned a car since 1998. My daughter is almost 18 months old. We get everywhere by bike. She is just as safe in my bike as she would be in a car. Safer. People can cringe all they want at kids on bikes with a 'flimsy helmet', but I cringe when I am in a rental car for work and see parents hurtling down the interstate at 70 mph + with one parent screaming at the kids while another adult or older child climbs over a seat to, I can only presume, mollify a complaining infant or toddler by handing over a snack, toy, or breast. Is that safer? Even if it weren't a clearcut violation of the law (i.e. no seatbelt) being distracted while driving is a much bigger risk to child passengers in a car than going 5-10 mph on a cargo trailer on sidewalks, bike boulevards or residential streets.

There is a great book by a statistician named, I think, Barry Glassner called "The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Fear The Wrong Things." He talks about this very thing - the way we take some outsized and ultimately fallacious sense of risk and blow it entirely out of proportion when things like on the job injuries that could have been prevented through OSHA enforcement or medical care that could have been provided by health insurance would same many many many many more lives.

Biking just isn't riskier than driving. Period. Yes. If you get hit by a heavy vehicle or car going very fast it won't turn out so good for you. Then again you could also run that risk as a pedestrian when crossing the street. Ever jaywalked? Should you stop crossing streets? Neither will it be so awesome if you are driving your typical i-5 commute and someone loses control of the wheel in front of you. Shit happens. Being in a car doesn't make you safer and the statistics bear that out. Any sense of security you have about your car is an idea you've cooked up to make yourself feel more in control - it isn't actually reality.

If I owned a car the financial impact would have a statistically high chance of negatively impacting the quality of my daughter's life than would toting her around in a safe and well lit cargo bike. According to the Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, car ownership costs are the second largest household expense in the U.S. . In fact, the average household spends almost as much on their cars as they do on food and health care combined for their entire family (see http://www.bikesatwork.com/carfree/cost-of-car-ownership.html). As it is I barely make it by from month to month and I am a solidly middle class single mom whose co-parent reliably pays child support. I suppose I could own a car but the costs involved would force me to significantly compromise the quality of the food my daughter and I eat and the kind of child care environment that I could afford to see she is provided. I pay for preventative/catastrophic health insurance for my child, but cannot afford it for myself. If I had to shoulder car payments, insurance, gas, maintenance and other car costs I might have to choose whether or not to continue to pay for her health insurance.

Just sayin.

Tanya, I love your comment and much in your reasoning resonates with me. I too choose to spend my "spare" money on great whole organic food for my children, a few activities, the odd dental visit, that I could never afford were I to own a car.

and I agree with you about the risk: all is risky and moving down the street at a crazy 16 miles an hour (my all-time record speed as measured by one of those big MPH clocks) is comparably a very very small risk to any of the things I've done before giving up my car. I can't imagine the number of times I drove over the speed limit on city streets with a kid screaming his head off in the back, trying to hand a snack or a bottle with one hand while I signaled with the other. I've been that distracted mom going 70 down the highway, and thinking about it in retrospect terrifies me.

now when I borrow a car and drive on the freeway, I go a few miles under the speed limit, and make everyone behind me miserable.

Tanya, that link about the cost of cars is not working. My ten year old mini-van costs me 56 dollars a month to insure and then 48 dollars to fill it up twice a month. Creative errand running and carpooling mean that I don't fill it every week. That's only 152 dollars a month. This is way less than I spend on food to feed my family of four. I spend about 130 dollars every week on organic fruits and veggies and free range meats and such to feed my kids. That's 520 a month on food for my family.

Obviously, none of us is going to change the other's mind here but please don't speak to folks who disagree with you as if they are idiots. We all make the best choices for our families.

The link works, you just have to take out the end part ")." http://www.bikesatwork.com/carfree/cost-of-car-ownership.html
Also, I don't think that Tanya was intending to make anyone feel, or seem, like they are idiots. She was just trying to show her point of view on the situation. It doesn't feel good to have someone question whether or not you are providing a safe and healthy environment for you children. HB 2228 feels like an attack on a lifestyle that many mamas in portland have chosen. An attack that doesn't come with any kind of data to back it up. It feels like slander.
It makes me cringe to see people in cars with small children but I am not going to push for making it illegal for children to ride in cars (even though there is solid data that says car accidents are the #1 cause of death in children).
I think maybe you summed it up at the end when you said "We all make the best choices for our families."

"We all make the best choices for our families. "

Exactly, SWMom...so mind your business when it comes to the method I choose to transport my child.

Wow, I remember when people were respectful on this forum. I guess we've fallen prey to the allure of not having to face the person you are disagreeing with. Who knew bikes would be the downfall.

well dont forget that parents..(if you are one you know what i mean) take fewer risks while bike riding and i would say %100 of the time ride much slower with kid in tow or on the bike not just because its heavier...but to be safer...we car about our children and environment and being economically correct... so Mitch(state rep) needs to go suck an egg. AGREED?

So when is there going to be a rally against this bill...anyone know please email me rebelwithoutahouse@yahoo.com

"It makes me cringe to see people in cars with small children but I am not going to push for making it illegal for children to ride in cars (even though there is solid data that says car accidents are the #1 cause of death in children)."

I'm sorry differently abled and physically challenged parents and children cause you such discomfort.

I apologize. I should have said that it makes me cringe when I see perfectly able bodied parents and children in cars, but I am not going to push for making it illegal for children to ride in cars (even though there is solid data that says car accidents are the #1 cause of death in children)." Again, sorry if I offended the differently abled and physically challenged.
Sincerely, g

Well said, Toots. I miss the uMama love no matter how much the mamas disagreed. What happened?

Yes, let us all make sure that we preface any comment about a physical activity or transportational choice with clarification that you are only referring to non-differently-abled individuals as to avoid perceived or imagined bias in the future.

Sara, telling me to mind my own business..

Wow, that was ugly.

So anyone who disagrees with you is evil?

My email sent to Mitch Greenlick,

In Reference to House Bill 2228

I would just like to say that the issue is not riders of bikes, rather drivers who do not follow the rules of the road that create the safety issues with riding. Why not go after them?

I have ridden with my son since he was one in every manner of trailer and carrier. I have made blatant safety measures to protect us- bright colors, lights always on, flags, reflective tape and stickers everywhere. In this effort, and with a protective attitude, I have only once encountered a driver that was unsafe near us, and I surely "let him have it." I find I have more trouble with drivers IN MY CAR with my son than I do on my bike. I drive safely, which pisses everyone off.

As a single rider and driver, I know with out a doubt, that MOST drivers do not know how much space to give a cyclist. Why not spend your effort and time educating. Put up bill boards that state the rules? Create a calling out bad/irresponsible drivers line? Or create a conversation open to the public?

I understand your efforts are to care for children, and that's #1 jobs as parents as well. I request that you help us with that by creating safer drivers.

Thank you for your time,
Raini McPhate

Evil? Ugly? Okay, SW Mom..now you are just embarrassing yourself. Is twisting what Sarah said part of your persecution complex?

Your comment on how "we all make the best choices for our families" seems antithetical to the fact that you seem to think it's okay to judge and want to deem what is acceptable about how other parents get around town with their children.

So because someone says you should MYOB, you put melodramatic words like evil into their mouth? Just like how you accused someone else of treating you like an idiot. It's a discussion forum, get off the cross, no one is treating you like anything.

If you are reading every post Jeez Louise, you'll see that V and toots made similar complaints as well.

Urban mamas is supposed to be a welcoming and friendly place. I can't believe how some of you have treated those who disagree with you.

The comments to this entry are closed.