EDITORIAL: One off the top

It’s mandatory to wear a bike helmet when you ride in B.C., but not in many parts of the world.

People in such enlightened countries as Denmark and the Netherlands are not forced to don a nutshell, and yet here we fear the alternative.

It makes sense: Who wouldn’t suddenly see the wisdom of some cushion when they’re flung over the bars?

The issue arose recently with Vancouver’s decision to launch a bikeshare program next spring. The plan is to make 1,500 bikes available at about 125 stations in the downtown and the Broadway corridor between Main and Arbutus streets.

The program will make it easier to leave the car at home.

But promoting bike use is about removing barriers, and a bike helmet is a significant one.

The City of Vancouver says it won’t ask Victoria for an exemption from the mandatory helmet law, and that may hinder its success. Only three bikeshare systems among the 300 or so worldwide have such a law.

The two in Australia—Melbourne and Brisbane, where there is a helmet law—have failed miserably.

On the road to encouraging more people to use bicycles to get around, it’s worth considering repealing the mandatory helmet law.

At very least, an exemption for adults should be considered.

Many will still wear their helmets. In Portland, where there is no helmet law, 80 per cent still do.

And in B.C., despite the law requiring helmets, seven of the nine people killed on bikes in 2010 weren’t wearing one.

In the end, the best route to a safer ride for cyclists is to have more bike paths and more people out on the street riding.

The more bikes out there, the more it’s part of the landscape, and the more people in other vehicles are watching out.


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