El Paso City Council might create law making bike-riding children wear helmet

Children riding bikes might have to wear helmets

The El Paso City Council voted 7 to 1 on Tuesday to explore a law that would require children to wear a helmet while bike riding.

City Rep. Cortney Niland proposed the ordinance after being approached by a group of nurses and a doctor, she said. "They told me there's been an increase in head trauma injuries in children," she said. The law would require children between the ages of two and 17 to wear a helmet while bike riding in public, according to the proposal.

Council voted to have the bicycle advisory committee and the group of nurses who approached Niland, plus others in the biking community draft the ordinance and explore the enforceability of the potential new ordinance.

"We should do everything we possibly can to protect our youth. We don't want to discourage bicycle riding. We don't want to discourage people from being out there but if there's something that we can do to  help protect the youth of the future of el paso then we need to do it," said Niland.

Dr. Michiel Noe voted to explore the possibility of a new law, but said he was skeptical about the enforceability of such an ordinance. "what are we going to do - fine a five year old?" he asked Council.

"I don't think our police officers should be put into a position where they're going to pull over an 8-year-old, take away his bike because he's not wearing a helmet, take him home and charge his parents $20 or $30. I don't think that's the approach," said Noe, later in an interview.

It's unclear if a scenario like the one Noe references would happen.

City Rep. Eddie Holguin was the lone vote against exploring the law. He said he was going to vote for it until Niland said people who can afford a bike can also afford a helmet. She said not purchasing a helmet is like buying a pet and not affording its food.

"People used to ride bikes without a helmet and they turned out alright," Holguin told Niland.  

Las Cruces already has a law requiring minors to wear helmets while bike riding. The fee for breaking the ordinance is $10.00.

The move comes on the same day City Council unanimously approved a deal with the Texas Department of Transportation to build more bike lanes in Central and Downtown El Paso. The total cost of the bike lanes will be $2.1 million, with the City contributing $182,000.  The lanes will be striped with thermal plastic material which has an 18-month shelf life, compared to the 3-month shelf life of the paint the City used to use on bike lanes.

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