Posted by: bkivey | 20 January 2011

The Newest Nanny

In the current state legislative session Representative Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, introduced HB 2228, which would prohibit children under the age of six from riding in a bicycle trailer. In a state that prides itself on recreational opportunities and particularly in a city that is forever patting itself on the back about how ‘green’ and bicycle-friendly it is, this was akin to proposing a state ‘Hummer’ day. Reaction was immediate and vehement.

Rep. Greenlick is a medical doctor and former director of public health at the state medical school (OHSU), so he’s not stupid. But as his statement about the introduction of the bill demonstrates, he’s more than a little arrogant. He says that his introduction of the bill was motivated by his concern for children based on a study done among adult cyclists who ride to work. He goes on to say:

“But when I began looking for data on the safety of young children on bikes, it is clear that data are simply not available.”

I don’t know how long kids have been riding around in bike trailers, but I’d bet that it’s about as long as there have been bicycles; a period of well over a century. If in all that time no one has bothered to study child injury rates from bike trailers, I’d say that’s a pretty good indication it’s not a problem. Furthermore, considering the advances in child trailer design, automotive braking systems, mandatory helmet laws for children, and the general raising of awareness of cycling, especially in Oregon, I’d say that it’s not likely to be a problem.

He goes on:

“. . . I do not believe there is a parent in Oregon who would want to risk the safety of their young children if they really believed it was risky to put them on a bicycle.”

The statement is accurate as far as it goes, which is not nearly as far as Dr. Greenlick wants to go. It’s the parent’s responsibility to decide what’s best for their children, not the State’s.

Then we get to the weasily part of the statement:

“I introduced HB 2228 to begin what I hope will be a rational discussion to assure we were doing everything possible to improve the safety of bicycle transportation in Oregon.”

No you didn’t, doc. You introduced the bill to criminalize an activity that thousands of people in your district engaged in, without consequence or problem, while minding their own business, and probably congratulating themselves on how much good they were doing.

But wait, there’s more:

“There is so much we dont know about this topic. I hope this process will reduce the heat in the debate and increase the light.”

Yeah, you already told us that. And would it be rude to point out there wasn’t any ‘debate’ or problem until you created one out of some unsupported nebulous private concern of yours?

And for the finale’, the most condescending sentence in the statement:

“Lets try to keep the discourse civil and trust we all want to do what is best for the children of Oregon.”

I’m pretty damned tired of people who want to run my life telling me that I have to be ‘civil’ after they’ve decided what’s best for me and then lecturing me on what my attitude should be. I’ve got news for you, if you stick your nose in my business, you’re going to find me far from ‘civil’.

So let’s see if we have all the requirements for the nanny-stater:

  • I’m smarter than you. Check.
  • It’s for the children. Check and double-check.
  • There’s no evidence of a problem, but I’m concerned. Check.
  • Parent’s don’t know enough to make good decisions about their childern. Check.
  • We need a law to address my concerns. Check.
  • I don’t want to hear any opposition or that I might be wrong. Check.

I don’t have any kids young enough to ride in a bike trailer, and I’ll admit to a bit of Schadenfreude in seeing liberal Oregonians hoist by their own petard, but the contempt expressed by Rep. Greenlick for his constituents needs to be exposed and publicly ridiculed. If he practiced medicine the way he does politics, he’d cut you open, and then run the tests. If his intention truly was to open a debate about what appears to be a non-problem, he’s got a backasswards way of doing it. You don’t start a conversation by punching someone in the mouth.

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