Debating helmet laws for cyclists is a no-brainer
Good for Ron van der Eerden for challenging the mandatory adult helmet law and to Dr. Tom Demarco for supporting him [“ Helmet-law crusade wins doc’s backing”, July 7-14]. This law should be repealed for a number of reasons, but one is that it is harmful to public health. I have met a large number of people who drive their cars in Vancouver, rather than ride bikes, simply because of the helmet law. This contributes to air pollution, obesity, and other health hazards.
Yes, it is sensible to wear helmets in many situations—busy streets, rain, and dark nights—and I do so. However, having a mandatory helmet law is harmful. For an older woman in menopause to receive a ticket for having taken off her helmet—because of the risk of overheating (itself a health hazard)—while riding uphill on a quiet bike route on a hot day, is ridiculous. Many older women I know won’t ride because of this threat.
This law is also a waste of my tax dollars. Rather than spending their energy targeting vehicle drivers who endanger the lives of cyclists and pedestrians, the Vancouver Police Department waits on bike routes to ticket cyclists who are not wearing helmets. This happens more and more as the weather heats up.
A British study shows that mandatory helmet use discourages cycling by portraying it as abnormally dangerous, and a British MP is refusing to wear one as he rides, for this reason. Pedestrians and drivers are at more risk of head injury than cyclists—why aren’t they all required to wear helmets?
Very few jurisdictions in the world require compulsory helmet wearing because numerous studies have shown that cycle use drops considerably once this law is imposed. If we are serious about reducing vehicle driving in Vancouver, we had better work hard at getting this law repealed. Let’s put our efforts into improving safe cycling infrastructure and education for both drivers and cyclists. That would be far more effective in keeping cyclists safe. The more people cycle, the safer we all are.
> Mary Sherlock / Vancouver
As an avid cyclist in the city, I am greatly concerned about the liberties cyclist feel they are entitled to on the streets. The cyclist in the article states feels he has been ticketed for violating an unjust law, requiring cyclists to wear helmets. He also feels that this law, while it aims at making the streets safer for cyclists, actually has the opposite effect.
I strongly disagree with this statement. What cyclists as a group need to recognize is that we have received a lot of liberties from the government over the past several years, but these also come with a certain set of responsibilities. We should consider that, in riding on the streets, we are basically entering into a contract to make it as safe as possible for all other cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians. This is why there is legislation about crosswalks, traffic lights, and seat belts. If we cyclists wish to join in, then we should recognize that we too are legally and morally obligated to help make things as safe as possible for us and for everyone else out there.
> Bruce Smart / Vancouver