VIDEO - Should Wearing a Bicycle Helmet be Mandatory?

video iconThis video is a news story carried on CTV Vancouver Island. It explains that helmet use has been mandatory for a long time but may cyclists don't bother wearing them. Those that don't believe that it should be a personal choice. This is balanced by those who wear one and have avoided serious injury in a crash because of it.

Contrary to the popular belief that the police don't write tickets for this, 2.400 tickets for not wearing a helmet and 54 tickets for permitting a child to cycle without a helmet were issued in 2016.

Where do you stand on bicycle helmets? Does the cost to society in having to support a brain injured cyclist for the rest of their life outweigh their freedom to choose?

Sorry, but the video may be slow to load. That's a CTV issue and there's nothing that I can do about it for you.

Comments

Bicycle Helmet

I equate this dilemma with the seatbelt law that became mandatory.  The countless lives this safety device has saved or minimized injury is immeasurable.  I recall my mother making a point at that time that the Gov’t was taking the “choice” away from adults.  I was young and naive at the time but I recall her rationale and while I thought she was right in some respects, I remember thinking, “why wouldn’t you want to reduce or even prevent death or injury by wearing a seatbelt?”  I think that same rationale for cyclists.  There’s tons and tons of gear, equipment, clothing, machinery etc.etc. to protect your well being....  why wouldn’t you?  I think it’s not only selfish if you don’t wear that safety/protective equipment, but you obviously have some askew vision that you are invincible or it won’t happen to you, not a fair and respectful outlook upon the rest of us left to deal with your death or serious life long head injury.  Wear your gear!  

helmets on road, sure

Of course wear a helmet on a road. In a park? Not so sure.

And I have to point out, that even with the helmet, a cyclist is extremely vulnerable to death and destruction from people driving cars. Because there are careless and aggressive idiots driving, as well as random misfortune happening, costs to cyclists and the medical system are high. I would say the personal costs are much higher and anyone who gets a million dollar payout - it could never be enough based on the suffering I've seen by the victims in such personal injury cases.

BC's helmet law

BC's helmet law only applies to "a highway," but individual municipalities may enact bylaws that extend beyond a highway.

 

Bicycle safety helmets

184   (1) A person commits an offence if that person operates or rides as a passenger on a cycle on a highway and is not properly wearing a bicycle safety helmet that

(a) is designated as an approved bicycle safety helmet under subsection (4) (a), or

(b) meets the standards and specifications prescribed under subsection (4) (b).

 

A highway is defined as

(a) every highway within the meaning of the Transportation Act,

(b) every road, street, lane or right of way designed or intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles, and

(c) every private place or passageway to which the public, for the purpose of the parking or servicing of vehicles, has access or is invited,

but does not include an industrial road;

Author of "Letters to a Driving Nation: Exploring the Conflict between Drivers and Cyclists." www.brucebutler.ca

roads and municipalities

Seems a helmet is required on roads generally, not just "highways," but in every municipality. You're not saying they can pass exceptional rules, are you?

A park is not designed for the passage of vehicles. Hence my park comment.

Definition of a "highway"

A highway is defined as

(a) every highway within the meaning of the Transportation Act,

(b) every road, street, lane or right of way designed or intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles, and

(c) every private place or passageway to which the public, for the purpose of the parking or servicing of vehicles, has access or is invited,

but does not include an industrial road;

Unless a municipality has passed a bylaw specifically requiring helmets on non-highways such as paths/trails/parks, etc. then wearing one is not mandatory. For example, I believe Vancouver requires helmets on the seawall, even though that is not considered a highway under the MVA.

Author of "Letters to a Driving Nation: Exploring the Conflict between Drivers and Cyclists." www.brucebutler.ca

Transportation Act

Check the definition of highway in the Transportation Act. It makes even more places a highway...

bike helmets

My newphew has run 2 or 3 iron man races.  He rides to work by bike all year.  At one point, even with his great caution and skill in riding in traffic, he was hit by an SUV.  It knocked him cold and damaged one hip.  The helmet had discintigrated.  The paramedics told him when he woke up that he was so lucky to have been wearing a helmet as it saved his life.  

I think it should be mandatory - just like for motorcycles.

Are talking helmet laws or helmet use?

You asked "Should wearing a bicycle helmet be mandatory?" and also "Where do you stand on bike helmets?" - those are two different questions.

As for helmet laws, the evidence is overwhelming that the introduction of mandatory helmet use laws results in a significant reduction in the number of people who cycle. This, in turn, results in higher medical costs to society due to the negative health impacts of a more sedentary society and more tailpipe emissions. I could quote numerous studies to support this, but the website http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1122.html does it already. The BC helmet law was introduced specifically to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries, but those rates have not decreased. So by any objective measure, BC's law has been a failure.

As for wearing a helmet... bike helmets are not magic. A helmet will provide some protection for certain types of impacts at low speeds. The testing method used to certify bike helmets uses a deceleration limit 300g limit, which is considered to be unsurvivable by medical standards. The 300g limit corresponds to an impact speed of 20-23 km/h - above this speed, a helmet will likely provide no protection whatsoever (the average speed of a road cycling club is 30-40 km/h). Also, bike helmets can cause a spinal cord injury due to the increased mass and effective head diameter. Bike helmets aren't all they're cracked up to be.

You also ask, "Does the cost to society in having to support a brain injured cyclist for the rest of their life outweigh their freedom to choose?" That is a loaded question as it implies you cannot have one without the other. People can choose to wear helmets in absence of a helmet law.

Why is there so much interest and, dare I say, hysteria, over an issue that affects so few people? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 15,000 people die annually in the US from traumatic brain injuries due to motor vehicle use, while, for cyclists, the number is down around 100. Why aren’t we promoting helmet use amongst drivers and their passengers? Every year, hundreds of thousands of seniors are injured due to traumatic brain injuries, yet we don’t insist that Grandma straps on a helmet when she goes for a walk. We are so focused on protecting an incredibly small number of cyclists with these "magic hats" yet don’t seem to care about losing, every year, a group of people equivalent to the population of a small town. If everyone who got into a car had to wear a helmet, tens of thousands of lives could be saved.

Author of "Letters to a Driving Nation: Exploring the Conflict between Drivers and Cyclists." www.brucebutler.ca

Submitted by E-Mail

A family friend sustained a head injury while riding their bike without a helmet. This friend who was a manager of a major grocery store, now lives in a disabled persons home. I would not trade my life for his, it is not worth the risk to yourself to not wear a helmet. If there is a law it should be enforced if possible. This is not a personal choice, this is something that affects all of society.

I am travelling in Europe now and today I am in Barcelona Spain. There are thousands of bicycles in this bike friendly city. And thousands more motorized scooters, mopeds and all kinds of 2 wheel personal transportation vehicles. From what I can see most people are wearing helmets while riding their bikes in this large city. Using Europe as an example for not wearing a helmet is ridiculous.

Wear Your Helmet, while riding your bike. Who wants to live the rest of their life as a vegetable, because they were too lazy or ignorant to wear their helmet.

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