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How can we reach our 2020
Greenest City Targets?

Brad Kilburn

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    Brad Kilburn commented  · 

    Good to see this discussion and even better to review the law after years of experience with it.

    One of the troubling things to read is the continued belief that bicycle helmets save lives even when there has been long experience of cyclists dying with helmets on.

    The purpose of the law was to save lives and it was stated in the legislature before the law passed, that there was overwhelming evidence passing the law would significantly reduce deaths to cyclists.

    What happened? Well helmet use doubled overnight, and deaths to cyclists increased!

    In the subsequent years, police enforced the helmet law less and more people started riding, and they were riding without helmets.

    Currently, there is an approximate 50/50 split in helmet use, and not surprisingly, there is a 50/50 split in deaths to cyclists with or without helmets.

    The reason cyclists are dying with helmets on, is because it is collisions with motor vehicles that kill cyclists, not simple falls. (helmets are made for simple falls with little or no forward momentum)

    Even if a helmet was 100% effective in collisions with motor vehicles (which they are not) cyclists would continue to die because in the vast majority of these deaths, even when the cause of death has been determined to be due to a head injury, there are other injuries, aside from head injuries that lead to death. A bicycle helmet even leaves the most vulnerable portion of the skull, with the brain behind it, exposed.

    The number of cyclists killed pre- and post- helmet law has hardly changed at all, the only thing that has changed is that there are anecdotal claims of lives that have been saved that are more based on emotion, than fact.

    A second problem with helmet legislation and related to the cries of saved lives from wearing helmets, is the lack of context these stories perpetrate.

    All of BC averages about 7 deaths to cyclists per year. Vancouver counts some 60,000 trips per day on bicycles and about 1 death per year. That's about 1 death per 22 million trips, or looked at in a more popular way, roughly the odds of winning the lottery.

    True, it happens, but if one was to plan to fund their retirement plan by buying lottery tickets, most would say, that's crazy, but to say it's crazy to ride a bicycle without a helmet because one day it may save a life, is equally crazy.

    Put things in perspective, pursue more effective means of increasing the safety of cyclists, and get more people riding by rescinding the helmet law.

    Let an adult make a choice, don't treat adults like children.

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    Brad Kilburn commented  · 

    One more reason to repeal (or exempt Vancouverites from ) the law - publicly shared bicycles.

    Translink has such a program planned for Vancouver and programs like it have been successful all over the world and none have required the use of helmets.

    The only large scale program that has required helmet use has failed.

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    Brad Kilburn commented  · 

    well, Steven, the fact is, regular cyclists liver longer and healthier lives than most people so what we need to do to help everyone is to get more people riding.

    And on that note, here's a bet I saw yesterday morning at the bottom of the daily blog that
    directly relates to Vancouver and it's goal of a 10% cycling share

    "There will never be a city that promotes (or legislates) bicycle helmets that will ever reach double digit modal share for bicycles."

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    Brad Kilburn commented  · 

    certainly, Vancouver has the power to enact a by-law that excludes people riding a bicycle within its borders to be exempt from the provincial law.

    This would increase the amount of cyclists and subsequently increase their safety.

    Brad Kilburn supported this idea  · 
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    Brad Kilburn commented  · 

    I vote to repeal this failed law.

    It's purpose was clearly stated which was to reduce deaths to BC cyclists and this has not happened.

    I believe it is an unjustified law because the risk of death on a bicycle is no greater than the risk of death as a pedestrian or motorist. The abilities of a bicycle helmet fall well short of preventing death because almost all deaths come to cyclists as a result of collisions with motor vehicles and these forces are too great for what a bicycle helmet can provide.

    The emphasis on wearing helmets has eclipsed more important and effective methods of improving cycling safety resulting in more danger for the cyclist, rather than less danger for the cyclist.

    A substantial portion of people do not agree with the law and refuse to wear a helmet in spite of it. An adult should have the right to choose and if they do, more people would cycle and their health, as well as others, health will benefit.

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