British rock star Billy Idol and about 3,000 other leather-clad bikers converged on Los Angeles City Hall Sunday to protest a bill that would require all motorcyclists to wear helmets.
"I believe in freedom of choice. That's what I love about America," said Idol, who rode to the rally from Hollywood - sans helmet - on a Harley-Davidson."It's up to the rider to decide if he needs a helmet," said Idol, who in early 1990 underwent four operations on an arm and leg shattered in an accident on his motorcycle.
The state Senate, culminating years of high-profile wrangling, voted 22-10 Tuesday to send the helmet bill to Gov. Pete Wilson's desk. Wilson is expected to sign the measure, which would become law Jan. 1.
Anti-helmet-law forces organized Sunday's rally in a last-ditch effort to dissuade Wilson from signing the bill. Thousands of snarling choppers ringed the block around City Hall, and the orderly crowd of about 3,000 bikers cheered loudly as speakers denounced the bill.
The bill, authored by Assemblyman Richard Floyd, D-Carson, requires all motorcyclists to wear helmets or face a $100 fine for the first offense. Fines would be stiffer for subsequent violations. Currently, only motorcycle passengers 151/2 years old or younger must wear protective headgear.
The legislation is backed by a broad coalition of doctors, hospitals, safety groups and police. It is opposed by a variety of motorcycle organizations.
Idol pointed out he wasn't wearing a helmet at the time of his accident, which occurred after he ran a stop sign.
Another well-known motorcyclist, actor Gary Busey, at one time also opposed any helmet law but switched positions after a near-fatal accident on his bike in 1988.
Helmet law proponents maintain that injuries to cyclists without protective helmets cost California taxpayers up to $100 million a year in medical and other costs.