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Seattle Helmet Law Crackdown

Old 05-11-10, 02:11 PM
  #1  
paulypro
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Seattle Helmet Law Crackdown

Hey guys & girls.... Just an FYI for anyone in the Seattle area who may choose to occasionally ride helmetless...

I just received a $103 ticket last Friday, for no helmet. I was literally just riding along, unfortunately crossing paths with one of 'Seattle's finest' motorcycle cops/revenue collectors. There was no other complaint, no other infraction, warning or comment from either side. The helmet ticket was a 'first offense' citation, meaning that was the reason he pulled me over and issued the ticket. Yeah, he told me to 'push it' until I got a helmet on.

Apparently the law (which had previously included an exception for Seattle city limits) changed in 2003, requiring the entire county & state to helmet up on a bicycle. I never got the memo, so I assumed I was within the law. Just in case anyone else happens to be as blissfully ignorant as I was as of last week, here's a memo:

http://www.seattlepi.com/transportat...chelmets19.asp


I guess I could look at it like: "I'm getting a pretty good deal if this is the first ticket I've gotten since the law apparently changed back in 2003". In that light, I guess I've gotten away with a lot, not even counting the countless red lights and stop signs I've burned since my last bike ticket in 2001. I've also broken speed limits oooooh snap!

...but I still think laws like this are dumb. I'm not going to go into my specific personal experiences on bikes, but suffice to say I believe I have decent judgment as to what is and is not 'reasonably safe'. To me, riding a bicycle in traffic is within the realm of 'reasonably safe'. I've ridden SanFran, Portland, Vancouver BC, NYC, and Seattle & I feel quite comfortable and 'reasonably safe' riding in these traffic scenarios. I grab a helmet for any group ride scenarios, and definitely on the mountain bike, but for errands and commuting I usually choose to just leave it. Just how I've always done it.

I know, people will say I'm dumb for not wearing a helmet, and maybe they're right, but still I don't think this should need to be a mandated and enforced first offense law. Come on!

Mostly just wanted to let people know they're looking to generate some revenues off of the cyclists out there without helmets. You're probably safe if you don't travel through the downtown core. I believe it's likely just the motorcycle cops that are doing this, so 90% of Seattle bike riders are probably going to be ok.
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Old 05-11-10, 04:31 PM
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Thanks for the heads up ... no pun intended. I don't always wear a helmet, and while police have been fine with this in the past, it's good to know that that might be changing.

Did you get your ticket on 3rd and Pike or Pine, by any chance? You mention the downtown core, and motorcycle cops.
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Old 05-11-10, 07:24 PM
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My officemate's legal assistant - a former bike messenger - has gotten two of these tickets on her way into work over the past few months. They're definitely cracking down.
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Old 05-11-10, 08:10 PM
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I was pulled at 8th and pine, just going down pine in the uh 'bike' lane...

So did that person try to contest the tickets or did she just pay em like parking tickets?
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Old 05-12-10, 09:55 AM
  #5  
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Either of you mind telling us what day of the week, and roughly what time of day, you ( or your office mate's legal assistant ) got pulled over for being hatless? Was it on week days, during working hours? Rush hour?

Sometimes I wear a helmet, and sometimes I don't. I go through downtown occasionally, but it's usually on the weekends ( passing through Freeway Park to Cap Hill, or going south ) and evenings to visit a friend in Pioneer Square. And I'm wondering if "being downtown" has to go on my list of reasons to wear a helmet in the future.
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Old 05-12-10, 10:08 AM
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Does this really constitute a "crackdown?"
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Old 05-12-10, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
Either of you mind telling us what day of the week, and roughly what time of day, you ( or your office mate's legal assistant ) got pulled over for being hatless? Was it on week days, during working hours? Rush hour?

Sometimes I wear a helmet, and sometimes I don't. I go through downtown occasionally, but it's usually on the weekends ( passing through Freeway Park to Cap Hill, or going south ) and evenings to visit a friend in Pioneer Square. And I'm wondering if "being downtown" has to go on my list of reasons to wear a helmet in the future.
It was Friday afternoon, about 3:30ish. Nice sunny day, lots of bike riders out. I saw at least two other helmetless riders wheel by as I was getting a write up. I'd say that if you're going through the downtown core (basically anywhere in the metro 'free ride zone') that you may want to grab the bucket to keep the 5-O off your back.
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Old 05-12-10, 11:57 AM
  #8  
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Originally Posted by Kneez View Post
Does this really constitute a "crackdown?"
I don't think my one instance constitutes as a 'crackdown' in itself, however every time I tell someone about it I hear about someone else who's gotten one around here recently. I know of one messenger who got like 3 in a month before breaking down & buying a leather hairnet (that I guess counts as a helmet?)

Apparently it has been going around more-so recently than any other time I can think of, so I thought some may find it useful to know that enforcement is a reality & not simply overlooked as it has been for the past 7 years or so. I've done countless urban miles in this time, many of which were sans-helmet & had never once even had a second glance before my ticket last week.
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Old 05-12-10, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Kneez View Post
Does this really constitute a "crackdown?"
My son is a Seattle Police Officer and I asked him about this. He says that, at least in his precinct, there have been no instructions to crackdown. He says that there is a separate traffic unit and that it is possible they are running some sort of emphasis program. Says that he or his co-officers would not likely stop a cyclist for no helmet unless they saw them doing something really stupid or they thought they were involved in a crime.

Pretty easy to just put a lid on.
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Old 05-12-10, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by woodway View Post
My son is a Seattle Police Officer and I asked him about this. He says that, at least in his precinct, there have been no instructions to crackdown. He says that there is a separate traffic unit and that it is possible they are running some sort of emphasis program. Says that he or his co-officers would not likely stop a cyclist for no helmet unless they saw them doing something really stupid or they thought they were involved in a crime.

Pretty easy to just put a lid on.
Aye it is easy enough! I just got caught not wearing it!

I think that perhaps it's less of a standing order from command to 'crack down' but I believe may be an extremely easy opportunity for revenue collecting (like shooting fish in a barrel!). Testimonials I've heard about are all motorcycle/traffic SPD, and never the bicycle guys or cruisers. Who knows, maybe it's just one motorcycle guy out there working this one. Seems like it would be very easy to get 'em from that POV. I could probably get 30+ per day focusing on that only if I were in his boots. Likely easier than waiting for someone to run a red light or jaywalk.

I guess I could understand being picked out if I were doing something questionable, but no--this time I honestly was just rolling along in a straight line. Granted I was on a fixed gear bike (safely equipped with a front brake) spinning downhill, so I tend to believe this may have been what caught the guy's eye -- the fast pedaling. He's just doing his job which is enforcing a law that I was in violation of, but I do feel a little raw that the helmet thing is actually what I was pulled over for. I could totally understand it if he'd caught me rolling wrong way up a one way or through a light or something & tacked it on as an additional, but to pull over a bike for no helmet... I guess fair is fair (even if I happen to disagree with the law)! Touche SPD!
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Old 05-12-10, 08:00 PM
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Seattle police should run emphasis patrols on drivers texting, talking on phones and speeding if they wanted to significantly impact public safety in seattle as well as up revenues.

get off the bikers until the handheld electronics using motorists are targeted, these people are as dangerous as drunks behind the wheel!
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Old 05-12-10, 08:08 PM
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The triple-digit fine is what caught my attention. That could be respectable speeding ticket right there, and probably harder to contest.

I have a healthy 'respect' for Seattle parking enforcement as well, having been cited for blocking an invisible crosswalk, for parking head in into a back-in-parking-only spot, and sundry other unintentional parking violations. I guess they are consistent, at least.
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Old 05-12-10, 11:04 PM
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To be honest, this seems like a non-issue. It's not too hard to wear a helmet.

I should probably stop here before this turns into a helmet/anti-helmet thread...
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Old 05-13-10, 01:55 PM
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As a member of law enforcement, I must say that sounds like a high fine for riding without a helmet. That said...if its the law, and I work in Seattle.. Its my job to enforce it. We don't have that law here...though we do compete with each other to see who can claim the most cell phone tickets. One officer got 35 in an 8 hour shift. Nobody seems to obey that law here.. Sit near a busy intersection, and its like shooting fish in a barrel
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Old 05-13-10, 10:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Jakey View Post
As a member of law enforcement, I must say that sounds like a high fine for riding without a helmet. That said...if its the law, and I work in Seattle.. Its my job to enforce it. We don't have that law here...though we do compete with each other to see who can claim the most cell phone tickets. One officer got 35 in an 8 hour shift. Nobody seems to obey that law here.. Sit near a busy intersection, and its like shooting fish in a barrel
Keep up the good work!
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Old 05-14-10, 07:41 AM
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do the cops tag a 12 year old kid riding without a helmet to the convenience store on a weekend with a $103 ticket? That's a lot of slurpees.

Fines and fees are out of control these days.
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Old 05-14-10, 11:22 AM
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Jakey, I grew up in Salem and now live close. I thought Salem had 16 and under have to have a helmet on law?! A lady I work with had her son ticketed for skateboarding without a helmet in keizer. Ah well... at least in Oregon adults don't have to wear a helmet when I am just running to the store. I always put one on for a training or group ride where I will be going 10 mi+
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Old 05-14-10, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Jakey View Post
We don't have that law here...though we do compete with each other to see who can claim the most cell phone tickets. One officer got 35 in an 8 hour shift. Nobody seems to obey that law here.. Sit near a busy intersection, and its like shooting fish in a barrel
Like Kneez said, keep up the good work!

However, I would love to see the police pull over the on-duty police officer I watched make a left turn while talking on the cell phone, which is illegal in this state. But I think that would bend time and space, causing the universe to fold up on itself.
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Old 05-14-10, 02:01 PM
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Yes, its against the law for anyone under 16 to be without a helmet in Oregon. Only really enforced downtown, usually on kids that an officer may want to check for something else (cough-pot-cough) If we're going through a neighborhood and see kids without helmets, we'll warn them or the parents, but usually not actually give a ticket. However I ticketed a guy for riding with a kid in a baby seat without a helmet (neither he or the child).
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Old 05-14-10, 02:08 PM
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Not sure what the law in WA is, but here in Oregon you are permitted to use a cell phone while driving if it is essential to your job... Police, Fire, Tow services, UPS, Fedex etc... The ones that most often get caught are females, usually driving large SUV's. ...not profiling... but really. You see a white escalade or suburban coming at you...its a 50-50 chance. One ticket will pay for three or four bluetooth earpieces.


Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
Like Kneez said, keep up the good work!

However, I would love to see the police pull over the on-duty police officer I watched make a left turn while talking on the cell phone, which is illegal in this state. But I think that would bend time and space, causing the universe to fold up on itself.
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Old 05-25-10, 01:14 PM
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Crackdown maybe; same cop with a chip probably

Just got one this morning. Tuesday May 25 at 8am, 400 block of Pine...Westlake plaza. $103 bucks for such a silly offense. Weird though seeing as how Seattle website says it is $30, here http://www.cityofseattle.net/police/...bikesafety.htm. Anyone know why the difference?

Not so sure on the crackdown, it just appears to be the same cop (Mulkey I think his name is, unit 86328, serial 4784). I've seen this prick pulling over cyclists and pedestrians on Pine and 3rd avenues in the area of Westlake since sometime last year. I have two theories. He's either got a chip on his shoulder in regards to non-drivers or it is just easier to fill out the ticket for non-drivers (no car information needed, he just writes "On Bike" over the car portion. Either way, all he's done is to encourage me to stop cycling for awhile. Sure, a helmet is easy enough to put on, I just don't want to and shouldn't be forced to. So, guess I'll go back to walking to work for awhile until I get less heated about this.

Funny thing about the situation is he pulled his motorcycle up on the sidewalk blocking pedestrian rush-hour while he was giving me a ticket. He also split the lane with me to pull up beside me and tell me to pull over. Pretty sure that is illegal too, or maybe just for two motorcycles to split the lane? Eh whatever. Need to just pay it and forget it.
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Old 05-25-10, 08:43 PM
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In Eugene it seems like every bike rider (different than a cyclist) chooses which laws to obey or disregard. Most don't wear helmets, many don't stop at stop signs (even where there are cars who have stopped), they make illegal left turns, illegal right turns, dart in and out of traffic, and they are arrogant about it all. The bike advocacy group here is a joke, so nothing but law enforcement will make this all change. My advice to the EPD, get tough and make it sting.

Wear a helmet.....duh!!!
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Old 05-26-10, 12:15 AM
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Originally Posted by wes kirkman View Post
So, guess I'll go back to walking to work for awhile until I get less heated about this.
A wise decision.
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Old 05-26-10, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Shifty View Post
In Eugene it seems like every bike rider (different than a cyclist) chooses which laws to obey or disregard. Most don't wear helmets, many don't stop at stop signs (even where there are cars who have stopped), they make illegal left turns, illegal right turns, dart in and out of traffic, and they are arrogant about it all. The bike advocacy group here is a joke, so nothing but law enforcement will make this all change. My advice to the EPD, get tough and make it sting.

Wear a helmet.....duh!!!
I think your perspective is a bit misguided. I only see a few bicyclists egregiously disregarding the laws. I admit, I will sometimes start going before a red turns if there are no cars coming, but for the most part I obey traffic laws just because I feel safer doing so. I believe that how it is for most bicyclists, so your statement that every cyclist (I'm guessing except you, eh?) is vastly incorrect. Similarly, I often confuse the one bad driver with the many because the bad behaviour sticks in our mind. I try to remind myself of that on a daily basis.

Careful though with the helmet thing and obeying and enforcing laws just to obey and enforce laws. One day, you may find yourself required to wear a helmet just to walk down the street. I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty silly to me.

Originally Posted by Kneez View Post
A wise decision.
Yeah, definitely. Less potential to be an ass just because I'm upset about this one guy. I even walked my bike home last night
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Old 06-24-10, 12:07 AM
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I found this thread after being floored by the $103 fine I was handed at 7th and Pine a few days ago, and I just wanted to share that it was the EXACT SAME MOTO COP at the SAME PLACE. I've been biking without a helmet for years and never had a problem, even going through this "hot zone" multiple times a week. Just thought I'd let whoever else frequents that area- he probably likes to pick off kids coming down from the Hill.

Beware the Mulkey. Serious chip.
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