Tag Archives: safety

Breaking the Law?

Seawall Scofflaws
Only in Vancouver would cycling slowly along a recreational bike path be illegal. It’s ridiculous. I run faster than most seawall cyclists, and yet they’re required by law to wear safety gear. The City of Vancouver has its own by-law (60D) that extends the provincial helmet law (part of the Motor Vehicle Act) to the city’s car-free paths and parks.

It’s possible that skateboarders and rollerbladers have it worse than cyclists. They can’t legally use the city’s side streets unless bubble-wrapped.

A person must not ride or coast on non-motorized skates, skateboard, or push-scooter on any minor street unless (a) that person wears a helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads, and front and rear reflective equipment, and, in the case of skates or a skateboard, wrist guards; and (b) the skates, skateboard, or push-scooter has a braking mechanism.

Wrist guards are so important they were mentioned twice!

I realize these by-laws are rarely enforced, but if the city wants to show it’s serious about active transportation then it should scrap them. I think most people can decide for themselves if the risks of rollerblading without wrist guards is acceptible.

In related news, Vancouver’s bike share system has been delayed, yet again – now estimated to launch in 2015 (after being proposed in 2008 and approved by council in 2012). Dealing with the mandatory helmet law continues to be a stumbling block. Apparently they’ve worked out a vending machine solution. Seattle is set to launch its bike share program this fall with the same helmet vending machines, so we’ll see if they actually work or cause a logistical nightmare.

The Great Helmet Debate

Momentum Magazine has a great new article about the helmet debate – one of the most divisive issues within the biking community. I’m a bit torn on the issue. I wear a helmet and would feel naked without one, but I think the mandatory helmet law in BC should be scrapped.

Why? Two main reasons.

  1. Helmets discourage people from riding and increase the perception that cycling is unsafe. Less people cycling means more fat people. If we could convince them to bike, they would be healthier and society would be better off even if they didn’t wear a helmet.
  2. Helmets make bike-sharing nearly impossible. Melbourne is the only city that has a public bike-sharing program and a mandatory helmet law, and it is floundering. Vancouver is looking to become the second city, but it is also struggling to figure out how to make it work with a mandatory bike helmet law.

The real focus should be on making cycling safer, not on reducing the risk of head injury in the most severe crashes. That means education cyclists and drivers, enforcing lower speed limits, creating separated bike lanes, and doing other projects to improve general cycling safety.

Here is Mikael Colville-Andersen’s TEDx talk on Why We Shouldn’t Bike with a Helmet