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Bike messengers react to new helmet law

By Justin Rocket Silverman,

amNewYork, July 27, 2007

In an effort to make one of the most dangerous jobs in New York a little safer, the city on Thursday began mandating that every delivery worker and messenger riding a bike be equipped with a helmet, horn, and headlight.

While there was a noticeable increase in the number of helmeted cyclists in midtown yesterday, there were still many speeding about sans head protection.

"It cost us some money, but we are complying," said Oz Belton, manager of Quik Trak Messenger Service, which deploys up to 30 bike messengers daily. "Some of the veterans would rather not wear a helmet, but they will do it to avoid the ticket."

The rules require that employers provide the safety equipment to workers. Business owners face fines of up to $250 and 15 days in jail for failure to do so. An individual messenger can be ticketed $30 for not wearing a helmet and ID tag.

One restaurant delivery man who asked not to be named said he had not heard of the new rules. A bike messenger who asked to be identified only as Q said he was aware, but had no plans to don a helmet.

"I've been doing this job 20 years and have yet to sustain an injury that would have been prevented by wearing a helmet," he said. "These laws are made by people who have no idea what it's like to ride a bike in traffic. All they are doing is harassing us."

As Q was speaking, a cyclist rode by with overstuffed bags of Chinese food delivery dangling from his handlebars. His shiny red helmet was obviously brand new, and it glinted in the sunlight as he turned the wrong way up Seventh Avenue and swerved to avoid oncoming traffic.




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