Repeal mandatory bike helmet legislation
Vancouver will never convince anyone of being the 'greenest' city without a huge modal shift towards cycling (walking, and transit).
Such a shift will not happen until the average Vancouverite cycles on a daily basis. This will not happen without better infrastructure, progressive policy, AND repealing mandatory helmet legislation.
Yes, this is a provincial law. However, I am sure that Vancouver has the ability to make this change happen.
p.s., the safety and health benefits of more people cycling far outweigh the potential safety benefits of bicycle helmets.
and somehow we are going to save the planet with this idea - good luck!
Arno Schortinghuis commented
Nobody is saying you shouldn't wear a helmet - simply that the helmet law is bad. Laws are meant to prevent people from harming others. Wearing or not wearing a helmet has no effect on others. Attempting to enforce the helmet law distracts police from addressing more serious issues like cars crashing into bicycles. We can still encourage people to wear helmets, but it doesn't make sense to force this on people with the possible exception of children under 16.
Tammy Everts commented
@Evan: I was cycling in busy traffic, on a rainy grey day. A car cut me off. Because the road was slick and my panniers were heavy, my bike skidded and spun 180 degrees in an intersection and I crashed, hitting my head hard on the street. Motorists didn't see me on the ground and were whipping right past my head. Even with a helmet, I was almost knocked out, but I was able to quickly get to my feet and hurry out of the intersection. If I hadn't been wearing a helmet, I would have been knocked out completely, and I'm pretty sure would have been run over.
I have friends who have similar stories, including one friend in Ottawa who barely survived this horrible accident:
One year later and he's still in physiotherapy and has permanent brain damage.
I seriously do not get why anyone would choose not to wear a helmet. Because it's not as comfy or as "cool" as being bare-headed? I find seatbelts uncomfortable, but I wear those, too.
I realize that they are not riding in traffic, but I can post a video of that too.
Food for thought:
There is no end to the evidence in the opposite (for repealing helmet legislation) direction -- including peer-reviewed articles. Do a google search and you will find them.. In fact, check out the wikipedia page and you will find a balanced case for both sides. I have been involved with this debate far too much, lately, to post links right now.
How many kids die in car accidents? Is the net benefit of kids not wearing helmets in cars worth it?
Kids can STILL WEAR HELMETS with repealed legislation. This is a matter of choice.
There is not a single non-flawed study that demonstrates a reduction in head injuries or fatalities with more helmet wearing -- as a percentage.
Colin Russell commented
I think that Copenhagen study is hugely flawed and we should not be putting convenience ahead of safety just to (possibly -- the study couldn't say conclusively one way or the other) save a few health care dollars. Please do not cite NON-PEER REVIEWED articles as if they are 'scientific evidence', especially when they do not make a very convincing argument.
Sure, we could spend less money on children who die during bike accidents because they weren't wearing helmets (not much health cost when they die on site), but is that REALLY how we want to measure 'net health benefits'?
There is plenty of research that helmets ARE beneficial. Check out
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/rr/rr4401.pdf US CDC report on bike helmets, including references to research on helmet effectiveness
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/110/5/e60 Impact of Mandatory Helmet Legislation on Bicycle-Related Head Injuries in Children: A Population-Based Study
http://www.thecochranelibrary.com/SpringboardWebApp/userfiles/ccoch/file/Safety_on_the_road/CD001855.pdf Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in bicyclists
which a quick search on Google Scholar just turned up but you could find so much more...
1. People are far less likely to cycle if helmets are mandatory. BC saw a drop in participation of app. 28% post legislation.
2. The health gains of more people cycling FAR outweigh the potential safety gains of more helmet wearing.
3. We will save exponentially more tax dollars AND lives through healthier living than through more helmets.
4. There are massive environmental, economic, ecological, social, and cultural benefits to increased cycling. No city with a modal share over 10% (cycling) has mandatory helmets. Coincidence?
5. As more people cycle, cycling becomes safer. Safety in numbers applies.
6. With legislation, cycling fatality and serious head injury always remains the same or even INCREASES as a percentage.
7. Risk of accident and injury from cycling is not particularly high -- no higher than driving or walking -- let alone other, more risky activities.
8. Risk-taking behaviour by both cyclists and others (namely drivers) increases as perceptions of safety increase. A recent study showed that drivers give LESS room to people wearing helmets than to those not wearing helmets.
9. You and your loved ones can still wear helmets without legislation.
10. Bicycle safety is influenced to a far greater degree by education, policy, and infrastructure. Helmets are a band-aid solution.
@Tammy: I would love to know how a helmet saved your life as well as a FEW of your friends. That's remarkable.
@Lesli: The comparison make perfect sense. There is more to cycling culture than cycling infrastructure. Attitudes, awareness, participation (numbers) all have a huge part in this puzzle. The only places that HAVE mandatory helmet legislation is Australia, some provinces of Canada, some states in the US, and less than a handful of other places (Mexico's was just repealed; Israel's is on the way out). Turns out that the US, Australia, and Canada have some of the very lowest rates of cycling and some of the very highest rates of obesity. Weird.
Helmets are not like seatbelts for two reasons. First, seatbelts are proven to save lives; helmets are not. Second, seatbelts do not deter people from driving (which would be a good thing). Mandatory helmet deter people from cycling (which is a bad thing).
There is no proof that helmets save lives other than emotionally-driven anecdotal evidence. Statistics show that mandatory helmet legislation does not decrease fatalities or serious head injury as a percentage of cyclists and, in many cases, may increase it.
The 'brain injury clinic' argument is total BS. What about pedestrian head injuries? Falls? CAR DRIVERS!
If you are in support of mandatory helmets for cyclists, then you should be a HUGE supporter of mandatory helmets for drivers. Simple as that.
Tammy Everts commented
My life was saved by a helmet, as well as the lives of a few of my friends. Before that, however, I worked for a time at the Ontario Brain Injury Association, and learned enough about bike accidents and head injuries to keep me in a helmet for life.
Nobody thinks they're going to get into an accident... until it happens to them. People tend to focus on the fact that there are, relatively speaking, only a hundred or so cyclist fatalities every year, and they ignore how many injuries -- including head injuries that have awful, lifelong, debilitating effects -- happen to thousands of cyclists every year.
We don't live in Europe. We live in a Canadian city that has streets primarily designed for cars. As cyclists, we're at the mercy of these drivers. Driving defensively is all we've got going for us. But did you know that about one-third of all cyclist injuries are caused by drunk drivers? Even the best defensive driving skills can't protect you against someone who is coming at you totally erratically. That's when you need a helmet. It can't do everything, but it can at least prevent your skull from being cracked like an egg.
Lesli Boldt commented
I agree with Tamara - comparing Vancouver to a European city where there are no helmet laws makes no sense. Most European cities have excellent cycling infrastructure - including separated bike lanes on wide sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes - that make the risk of being hit in traffic much less than it currently is here. Changing requirements down the road may be a possibility, but until people aren't riding in the middle of traffic with vehicles (many of whom don't know that bikes are allowed to share the road and can get aggressive with riders as a result), helmets are the way to go to protect ourselves and are worth the resulting helmet hair and additional perspiration (which is the only drawback to helmets I can think of...)
I completely disagree.
I've had some close encounters with cars, and one of my friends had his life saved by a helmet. A car turned right without signalling/shoulder checking in front of him, and his head went through the back window.
I agree with Tamara that "Helmets are like Seat Belts". They're annoying, and they look dumb (and they might mess up your hair) but they can save your life. They're an easy precaution that cost almost nothing to implement and have a profound and dramatic effect on cyclist safety.
Tamara Shulman commented
See Copenhagen study that backs up the 'p.s.' note: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1368064
or google 'copenhagen bike helmets' to learn more. I heard about this movement recently from www.best.bc.ca and it made sense... so long as we have more separated bike lanes. helmets are like seat belts - they're needed for high velocity impact, something that's less likely to happen when cars go 30km/hour or less.