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									Feature                                                                                                                                                      City on a Hill Press • Volume 42, Issue 2


                                                                                                                                                                                        courtesy of Allen Young
Above: July 6, 2006: Quigley prepares to cross examine officer Gary Brennan. Page 20: post trial, helmet activists gather to discuss the events of the day

                                                                                                                                   Allen Young
                                                                                                                                   Contributing Reporter

How a motley group of biker activists dedicated
                                                                                                                                            ine miles outside of Boulder Creek,
                                                                                                                                            California, Big Basin State Park is a
their lives to fighting the mandatory motorcycle
                                                                                                                                            somewhat hidden campground and
helmet law                                                                                                                       day-hiking area with giant redwoods and green
                                                                                                                                 ferns running along the hedges of California
                                                                                                                                 Highway 236, the single road that runs through
                                                                                                                                 the park.
                                                                                                                                   On Aug 28, 2005, at 4:30p.m., Park Ranger
                                                                                                                                 Gary Brennan was talking to another ranger
                                                                                                                                 outside park headquarters when a skinny man
                                                                                                                                 with a long salt-and-pepper beard roared up to
                                                                                                                                 the main parking lot and cut the engine of his
                                                                                                                                 Harley Davidson. The rider was not wearing
                                                                                                                                 a helmet.
City on a Hill Press •October 4, 2007                                                                                                                                        Feature

    Brennan approached the man and               “All you have to do is put on a helmet to realize that they                                        National Highway and Traffic Association
identified himself as a state park officer.                                                                                                         announced that motorcyclists who wore
He asked the gaunt biker if he had a             affect your ability to see and to hear”                                                            helmets were 9 percent less likely to be
justifiable reason for neglecting to strap                                                                                                          injured and 35 percent less likely to be
on the mandatory headgear. To Brennan’s                                                                              Richard Quigley,               killed, noting to Congress, “Helmets
surprise, the cyclist did. In fact, he had                                                                      CA helmet law activist              cannot protect the rider from most types
an entire philosophy, and proceeded                                                                                                                 of injuries.” That same year, a UC Davis
to deliver a well-rehearsed spiel on the                                                                                                            study found that nearly 75 percent of those
intrinsic corruption of the California                                                                                                              injured in a motorcycle accident carry no
mandatory motorcycle helmet law. After                                                                                                              personal health insurance.
a lengthy discussion, Brennan remained           14-year battle against the California             to be the most resilient fighter of the              Tracking the effectiveness of the
unconvinced, and wrote the man a ticket          mandatory motorcycle helmet law looked            California helmet law in its 15-year history.    California mandatory helmet law is not
for helmet violation on a state highway.         to be all but over. The opposition had all        That day, Judge Barton signed off Quigley’s      an easy exercise—fluctuating variables
     July 6, 2006, nearly a year since their     the evidence they needed; now it was time         last pending helmet ticket at Big Basin          such as percentage of miles traveled by
encounter, Richard Quigley, the 63-year          to see who would win the war. Would an            Park as a correctable violation. That order      motorcyclists, biker injuries, and number
old biker, sat quietly at the defendant’s        outlaw motorcyclist backed by a traffic           came out over a year ago; the CHP has yet        of helmet violation tickets written per year
table of the Watsonville Superior Court,         appeals judge in the small coastal town           to appeal the decision, yet across the state     make definitive research cumbersome
staring at Brennan and preparing a cross-        of Watsonville, California, overturn a            they still continue to write motorcyclists       and debatable. But whether attributed to
examination to the peace officer’s testimony.    major California law? This question, this         tickets for helmet violations.                   general knowledge or broad superstition,
Judge Michael Barton invited Brennan up          obsession, may have been the force keeping            In 1967, Congress passed a law making        the common belief in most states is that
to the stand to explain why he felt justified    the dying biker alive (For a comprehensive        highway funds contingent on the enactment        mandatory helmet laws save lives.
in writing Mr. Quigley a ticket.                 story on the life of Richard Quigley, check out   of motorcycle helmet laws. For almost                But that’s never stopped determined
    There was, of course, the California         the 2007 edition of Primer, CHP vol. 42, Issue    a decade, California was the lone rebel          bareheaded cyclists. Retaliation erupted
motorcycle helmet law, which had been            1, available now).                                state that refused to pass a law. In 1976,       the moment the California law was passed.
in effect for 14 years. But nine days                Richard Quigley’s mind circled around         after Congress repealed the legislation, 27      Tribes of renegade bikers opting for zero
before Brennan’s testimony, Judge Barton         this strange game. And the game – one             states repealed their helmet laws or limited     cranial protection banded together. With
had thrown out nine of Quigley’s 11              he had dedicated the remainder of his             coverage to minors.                              the advent of the Internet, organizations
pending helmet tickets, calling them             life to playing – looked to be coming to a            The country was split on helmet              were formed—Riders for Justice, Helmet
“unconstitutional”, “unenforceable”, and         close. And just in time. Staring at Brennan,      enforcement.                                     Law Defense League (HLDL), and Bikers
thereby void. In the order, Barton wrote         Quigley made no effort to hide the large              In December 1991, Congress took              of a Lesser Tolerance (BOLT). A reformed
“The CHP is the only State agency authorized     gauze bandage wrapped across the left side        notice of DMV-reported motorcycle-               “suit-and-tie sales stiff,” Richard Quigley of
by the statutes to adopt reasonable              of his head. Beneath the bandage was a            related deaths. California had 512 that          Aptos, Ca. rode into the fight and became
regulations establishing specifications and      tumor the size of a silver dollar. For two        year. Once again, federal highway funds          California chapter director of BOLT. These
standards for motorcycle safety helmets.”        weeks Quigley had tried to get into the           became attached to helmet laws, and select       furiously stubborn groups, however, still
Over numerous court appearances and              hospital to have the red lump removed             states began to reinstate their laws. Later      made up the minority of riders.
countless documents, Richard Quigley had         before the trial, but to no avail.                that year, Democrat Assemblyman Richard              The anti-helmet crusaders attached
successfully convinced Judge Barton that             In August 2005, doctors diagnosed             Floyd of Southeast Los Angeles delivered         themselves to arguing against the vague
the CHP had no transparent guidelines on         Richard Quigley with stage-four terminal          an impassioned plea to Congress to pass          law. The ambiguity lies in the definition
what makes a helmet a helmet. There was a        lymphoma. They gave him five months to            a helmet law, claiming that head-injured         of what constitutes an appropriate
scientific standard, but police officers don’t   live. For a year he had grappled with the         motorcyclists were causing California            helmet. Helmets in California must bear
receive training on how to indisputably          growing cancer, ignored his degenerating          taxpayers $65 to $100 million per year.          a certification of compliance, a “DOT
follow that standard. Therefore, a “legal        health, converted the pain into anger,            His argument mopped the senate floor. In         approved” label, on the back. It is up to the
motorcycle helmet” could be anything from        and channeled his anger into fighting the         January 1992, then-Governor Pete Wilson          manufacturer to establish that its helmet
a full-faced carbon headgear safety device       helmet law. He admitted that his fixation         signed Floyd’s bill, enacting the first          complies with Federal Motor Vehicle
to, say, a plastic bucket, or a yarmulke.        with the fight had given his life new             California helmet law. Shortly thereafter, an    Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218, the national
    Richard Quigley liked to wear a              meaning, and even with the cancer now             investigation by state traffic safety agencies   requirement test that includes dropping a
yarmulke. Not a real yarmulke, but a             bubbled-up on the side of his face, he was        placed the actual annual taxpayer figure at      metal sphere on the helmet.
small plastic yarmulkesque disk with a           not about to let everything fall apart.           $1.5 million. The San Jose Mercury News              The Bell bicycle and motorcycle helmet
chinstrap. Sometimes Quigley wore an                 “Okay.” It was finally Quigley’s turn to      examined the mishap in an article titled         laboratory in Santa Cruz, California,
old faded baseball cap as his helmet. And        speak. His normal jagged voice sounded            Helmet bill rode bad data to win.                resembles a high-end gym one might find
sometimes, like the day he was cited by          especially scraggly, like an old trustworthy          “Who gives a fuck?” Floyd asked a            in a country club: a large room myriad
officer Brennan, he wore nothing at all.         engine being fired up for the first time in       Mercury reporter, later confessing that he       weight and rail machines. The FMVSS
     But Barton’s July 6 condemning order        months.                                           improvised his numbers in order to get his       218 test – a guided rail system that drops
didn’t rock the California motorcycle                 “I asked for a copy of Parks Department      bill signed.                                     a weighted spear onto the helmet – could
helmet law, it didn’t rock helmet legislation,   policy relating to enforcement of vehicle             “Bottom line is, I don’t give a rat’s ass    be the oldest piece of equipment in that
and it didn’t rock the CHP. In fact, it didn’t   section 27803B.”                                  about any of the figures,” said Floyd to         gym. The laboratory technicians keep
really rock anything.                                “We have none,” Brennan said.                 Channel 7 Los Angeles Eyewitness News.           218 on the far wall, and use it on every
    Two days later, the Santa Cruz Sentinel          “You have no specific policy for that         “It is the law of the state of California.       helmet they make, but only as their most
ran a front-page story with the headline         statute?” Quigley asked.                          Wear the hat, or go to jail.” Floyd spoke        rudimentary test.
CHP: Riders without helmets will get tickets.        “We have no specific policy for enforcing     with confidence, he had already sealed his           “We feel absolutely competent in going
It was business as usual for the Highway         helmet rules,” Brennan admitted.                  victory—bareheaded riders had already            above and beyond standard 218,” said
Patrol, representatives said they would              Gary Brennan remained frozen,                 begun receiving tickets. Any discrepancies       Brian Sidwell, test lab manager. “There are
continue to ticket bareheaded riders in the      staring at a single point somewhere in the        at that point were left in the dust.             some nuances [within standard 218] that
same manner they had been for years.             courtroom. Perhaps on that fateful day                The California death toll in 1992            would improve the quality. There’re flaws
    This is why Brennan’s testimony to           at Big Basin Park, Brennan had not been           dropped from 512 to 327, and so did              in its overall geometry.”
Quigley’s tenth ticket was so critical.          aware that the bareheaded biker who had           motorcycle registration, by 8.6 percent.             Fifteen different Bell helmet-testing labs
    Would the CHP arrive with new evidence       fervently argued for the freedom to let his       Two years later the figures were 291             string from Santa Cruz to China, making
to back up Brennan’s decision? Quigley’s         long gray hair flap in the wind happened          and 9 percent, respectively. In 1996 the         Bell the largest helmet-testing company in

                                                                                                                                                              continued on page 20
Feature                                                                                                            City on a Hill Press • Volume 42, Issue 2

          Beyond Repair                                                                                 continued from page 19

          the world. Bell’s helmets                                                                                                           distance sensor, British
          also meet the SNELL                                                                                                                 researcher Ian Walker
          requirement, a slightly                                                                                                             concluded, after being
          more rigorous test that                                                                                                             passed more than 2500
          certain states, California                                                                                                          times, that wearing a
          excluded, require for their                                                                                                         safety helmet may make a
          helmet law. The company                                                                                                             collision more likely. (He
          holds its helmets to such                                                                                                           also found that drivers
          a high standard in part                                                                                                             gave him an average of
          because the popularity of                                                                                                           5.5 more inches of space
          their models make them                                                                                                              when he wore a blonde
          a top pick to be tested for                                                                                                         wig and was mistaken for
          compliance by the National                                                                                                          a woman.)
          Highway        and      Traffic                                                                           courtesy of Allen Young
                                                                                                                                                 While     the     battle
          Association (NHTSA).                   test their helmets at outside,          and increased insurance rates                        against         protective
              Rae Tyson is a public              independent labs.                       are the most common arguing headgear may sound outrageous,
          spokesman for the NHTSA. “We               Since the creation of FMVSS         points.     The other side has it holds enough importance for
          spot-check in the marketplace,”        218, bad-boy cyclists have been         found loopholes to these claims, this subculture – of which many
          he said, “but it is up to the          seduced into purchasing “novelty        and most anti-helmet activists members have no other interest
          manufacturer to verify that the        helmets.” These caps – several          will happily debate the big- in political activism – to dedicate
          helmet does in fact meet the           rungs higher on the badass meter        picture issues, but their primary an ample portion of their lives
          standard. We do an extensive           – compliment beards and chains          argument is that helmets are too fighting, in court and out. Since
          amount of compliance testing           and black leather. The half-            uncomfortable, too heavy, and 1992, these individuals have
          where we go out and buy helmets        shell fiberglass lid doesn’t cover      too restrictive.                             lobbied     and    demonstrated,
          and test them ourselves.”              the ears and offers virtually no            “All you have to do is put on a          networked, formed alliances,
              Each year the NHTSA selects        protection to the head or brain.        helmet to realize that they affect spent money on research, and
          five helmets of a specific model,      It’s often flared on the sides like a   your ability to see and to hear,” attracted as much attention as
          forty helmets altogether, and          Nazi helmet.                            said Richard Quigley from his they could to the issue.
          tests them to ensure that they             The hats are known in different     small home deep in the Aptos                     Kate Wells, Quigley’s attorney,
          pass FMVSS 218. According to           circles as skull caps, beanies, half-   hills. Quigley laments that full-            does not ride a motorcycle, but
          its website, if NHTSA concludes        shells or shorty’s. They typically      face helmets, the ones he says her issue transcends ambiguous
          that a helmet does not pass 218,       come with a counterfeit DOT             are recommended by the CHP, motorcycle helmet standards.
          the manufacturer is told it must       sticker that the rider can paste on     inherently impair hearing and “Why do they pick on bikers?”
          recall the specific model or face      the back. Positively cheesy, but        reduce peripheral vision. “They she asks, in reference to big
          a penalty of $5000 for each            occasionally passable to a naïve        mess with your equilibrium in government. “Obviously because
          violation.                             police officer.                         strange ways,” he said.                      they can. It’s a group without a
              There is currently no public           “We see guys in the marketplace         In 1994, the National Public lot of political clout.”
          list available for recalled helmets.   who are risk-takers with limited        Services     Research     Institute
              Kate Wells, a civil rights         liability. They’ll import skull caps    found that wearing a motorcycle              END NOTE:
          attorney who is Quigley’s friend       and put a DOT label on it,” said        helmet does not restrict a rider’s           Richard     Quigley      died
          and legal advisor, is skeptical of     Brian Sidwell. “That’s nuts.”           ability to hear auditory signals         peacefully in his Aptos home
          whether or not the majority of             “This is a helmet, a safety         or see another vehicle, writes the       on September 15, 2007. He
          helmet manufacturers are testing       device,” he pleads. “Will they be       NHTSA.                                   was 63. A born rebel, Quigley
          their helmets. “Any manufacturer       caught? Maybe. And maybe not.              Supporters of bareheaded              resisted the idea that a person
          can slap a DOT sticker on and          If they know what they’re doing,        riding are quick to point out that       can’t be present at his own death
          put it up for sale,” Wells said.       then maybe not. It’s slow to weed       three out of four motorcycle-            service. His “living” wake was
          “The manufacturer is supposed          [the manufacturers] out.”               related accidents occur in               held in November 2005, and
          to follow 218. How many do?                Herein lies the loophole            intersections,    from       bikers      was attended by hundreds of
          Maybe the big manufacturers.           that warrants Richard Quigley           colliding with motorists failing to      family and friends, who passed
          The test is incredibly expensive.”     to proudly wear his “DOT-               yield. “When I’m riding around           around a mic and told Quigley
              Thom Parks, another lab            approved” baseball cap and              bareheaded,” Quigley says, “I’ve         personally how he changed their
          technician at Bell sports, is a bit    call it his helmet. In 2005, 67         noticed that more people have            lives. “His loss has had a great
          more optimistic.                       percent of motorcyclists in states      the propensity to see me and             impact on the motorcycle world,”
              “DOT testing of a given helmet     requiring helmet use wore DOT-          look out for my safety. And that’s       said Mike Osborn, Quigley’s chief
          model in a given size is pretty        compliant helmets, according to         what you need when you ride a            administer for the case. “The best
          cheap relative to the total cost of    a National Occupant Protection          motorcycle.”                             thing we can do for Richard is to
          the helmet—under $500,” Parks          Survey. Quigley’s army, the                On Sept. 13, 2006, Reuters            keep going.” In honor of Richard
          said. “All helmets sold in the         members of BOLT California, are         reported that drivers were up to         Quigley’s life work, donations
          U.S. are made at large factories       in part the soldiers falling into       two times more likely to drive           may be made to the ongoing
          in China, Korea, Japan or Italy,       that remaining 33 percent.              closer to helmeted bicyclists when       litigation against the CHP at
          which all have in-house test labs.”        Beyond skull protection, there      passing than bareheaded ones.            ABATE Judicial Fund, 10240
          Parks stressed that like Bell, a       are other reasons people support        After riding a bicycle fitted with       Seventh Avenue, Hesperia, CA.
          majority of helmet manufacturers       a helmet law. Societal burden           a computer and an ultrasonic             92345-231

City on a Hill Press •October 4, 2007   Feature


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