Law says bicyclists don’t need helmets … I don’t get it

A whole lot of the stuff in this world doesn’t make sense.

Summer blockbusters. Texting while driving. Voice mail still being a thing that exists.

Usually, there’s a logical answer, but we don’t know where to look, or whom we should ask. Or, often, we’re afraid of the answer we’ll get.

But don’t be afraid. I’ll be gentle. There’s a child involved in this one.

• • •

Jim wonders what in the heck lawmakers were thinking when they wrote this state’s whacky helmet laws.

He didn’t exactly phrase it that way, but I can read between the lines.

Nevada law says motorcyclists have to wear a helmet. Good. So do riders of scooters with engines of 50 cubic centimeters or more, or that can go 30 mph or faster. Also good. (Feel free to disagree and rant in my email if you wish. I can take it. My psyche is stronger than your skull.)

But mopeds, scooters with engines under 50 ccs, scooters that can’t go more than 30 mph, and bicycles? No helmet required. No registration required. No insurance required.

“Why is this legal?” Jim asks.

This is legal for the same reason Justin Bieber has more Twitter followers than Canada has people, Jim. Do I need to say more?

• • •

When I got Bob’s question, I nearly jumped for joy. Literally.

This intersection out in my part of town, Durango Drive and Deer Springs Road, is messed up. Traveling on Deer Springs in either direction, there’s a left turn lane, a right turn lane, and two go straight lanes.

If you’re in the right straight lane and there’s no one in the left straight lane, the light will never change. Frustrating is an understatement.

I would have complained, but I don’t like to use my position as the All Powerful Road Warrior to get stuff fixed in my own neighborhood.

Which is why I was thrilled when Bob wrote in with the same complaint I have.

I forwarded Bob’s complaint to the city of Las Vegas. The city sent some experts out there, and guess what? The sensors weren’t working. So they fixed it all up, and the light should be working again.

• • •

Tim wrote in with a question I thought was easy, but I ended up spending an inappropriately long amount of time on it.

He wrote: “My question (actually my grandson’s question) is this. Why does the road get really noisy when going from blacktop to concrete?”

He had no idea. “Well, you know grandpas are supposed to know that kind of stuff, but this one stumped me.”

This pavement noise thing took me down a rabbit hole. There’s a whole industry built on dealing with it.

Iowa State University has a National Concrete Pavement Technology Center. Its entire purpose is researching concrete pavement. Professors, secretaries, the whole shebang.

The center has produced voluminous reports on making concrete pavement quieter. They’re … technical. Over my head.

So I rang them up.

The first guy I reached acted like I was asking national security questions, said he was afraid I wasn’t going to present “both sides,” talked off the record about stuff that put me to sleep.

So I called another guy with the research center, Paul Wiegand, a transportation research engineer who used to be the public works director in Ames, Iowa.

It’s the surface, he said, not the concrete.

Concrete pavements have a texture ground into them to increase traction. You’ve probably noticed the grooves, lines that run perpendicular to the travel lanes.

Those lines make things noisy.

But recent research suggests that the lines don’t have to run perpendicular, and they don’t have to be so deep. Running them parallel with traffic, and making them shallower, will lessen the noise, Wiegand said.

It’s a good answer. But it left me wanting more.

So, I got a physicist to chime in.

Michael Pravica, a UNLV physics professor, said rough concrete puts up more resistance to tires than smooth asphalt does. More resistance equals more friction. Friction equals noise.

Voilà. It’s like running a traditional horsehair bow across a violin’s strings, and then running a smooth ruler over the strings. Smooth isn’t going to make as much noise.

• • •

One last thing: Last week, I answered a question noting that it’s legal to ride your bike on the sidewalk here in unincorporated Clark County, Henderson and Las Vegas, except for a small portion of downtown Las Vegas.

But, as reader Al pointed out, I totally forgot about North Las Vegas. That city has an ordinance saying bicyclists can’t ride on the sidewalk.

So keep that in mind, parents. Put your toddler and his training wheels out in the street, where it’s perfectly legal to ride without a helmet.

Got a transportation question,
comment or gripe? Ship it off to Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter @RJroadwarrior.

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