BC’s mandatory helmet law may be doing more harm than good (New Info)

Can a bike share program work when helmets are mandatory?

UPDATE: Join Daniel Fontaine for a live discussion on the issue of BC's helmet laws and the bike share initiative. The event is sponsored by 24 Hours Vancouver and starts at 1 pm on Wednesday, June 27th. Click here to join the conversation.


Around the streets of Metro Vancouver, a significant number of cyclists don’t wear helmets. This is despite the fact that in 1996 helmet use became mandatory for everyone riding a bicycle on our roads and bikeways.

Now that Vancouver politicians have decided to sink a few million tax dollars into subsidizing a new bike share system, the issue of helmet use is heating up. That’s because many bike share proponents believe that in order for the scheme to stand a chance at success, Victoria is going to have to abandon its province-wide helmet law.

Both cycling and health advocates have been abuzz on how to handle this thorny public policy issue. Front-line health care providers who work in our hospitals and emergency wards are adamant that helmets save lives and prevent serious head injuries.

Meanwhile, Vancouver’s former city planner Brent Toderian is advocating to relax helmet laws in order to make cities more cycle friendly. He argues public officials should be looking at the macro health benefits of more people cycling, rather than simply focusing on individual injuries.

Even avid cyclist and former NPA city councillor Peter Ladner weighed into the debate. He told The Province, “I think people should wear helmets, I always do. But for short rides it is not necessary.”

The debate has become so intense that cycling advocates have even suggested that if they are forced to wear helmets, so too should car and truck drivers.

This is one debate where I find myself being swayed by both sides. Removing helmet laws will encourage more people to cycle — which is a good thing. But, it would also lead to an increase in the number of serious head injuries.

24 Hours VancouverOn the whole, the libertarian side of me is leaning toward supporting the elimination of the mandatory helmet law. While I personally would never ride a bicycle without a helmet, I think government making it illegal is likely doing more harm than good.

What will be interesting to watch at 12th and Cambie is how Vision Vancouver politicians will react to the issue of cyclist safety and the helmet law. If you recall, they pulled out the safety card as the justification to construct separated bike lanes back in 2008. If they oppose the helmet law now in order to prop up their bike share scheme, will their critics accuse them of hypocrisy?

If you recall, it was a little over a year that councillor Geoff Meggs went through a stop sign and had an accident while riding his bicycle. He was hospitalized and suffered from a pretty nasty injury. I have no doubt the fact that he was wearing a helmet helped prevent anything more serious from happening. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if he is prepared to advocate for the elimination of the helmet law for bike share users.

With Vancouver taxpayers spending millions of dollars on a new public bike share program, the time is right to revisit whether we still need a helmet law or not.

– post by Daniel

Dutch treat: Lessons in sustainability from the Netherlands
How to set aside Vancouver's Wind Turbine bylaw in one easy lesson

Broken image or link? Click here to report it or visit citycaucus.com/typo.

About The Author

  • red

    I think if the city sets up a bike share program without helmets they are going to open the door to huge lawsuits should anyone get hurt.any lawyers out there what do you think

  • Steven Forth

    Wow, did Peter really say that! One is as likely to get hit on a short ride as a long ride.

    I have wavered on this and I have ridden these bikes in Ottawa, Montreal, Boston, London and Paris without helmets. But it made me very nervous to do so. I hope we keep the mandatory helmet law and find a way to make it work with a bike share program. If we figure out how to make this work we will have made a contribution to bike share programs generally.

    (Yes I have read the statistics and know that helmets have only a minimal impact on bike related injuries, but the injuries they do help prevent are those really serious ones to the brain).

    • Glissando Remmy

      Yes he did!

      One can injure themselves only by looking at a bike… especially when the bike is heading right towards you! 🙂
      If today was perfect there would be no need for tomorrow, right?
      I’ll only say this:
      The bike share program is only one joke in Robertson’s stand-up routine, he would have made a great comedian, so far City Hall is offering him a great venue, and Vision is just the right audience.

      …re-visit the Helmet Law?

      What was that thing that Mayor Bloomberg (the only other biking guru and confidante) did in New York so he can get reelected illegally a third time? Oh, yeah I remember, he changed the law…
      Are we heading towards the same direction here?

      “All Bikers With Helmets Are Equal… But Some Smartass Bikers Are More Equal Than Others.”

    • Repealing the law doesn’t mean banning helmets. If you felt nervous on a BIXI then nobody’s stopping your armouring-up. Some people won’t feel nervous, and will travel safely, slowly, along quiet streets. For them to travel in fear of a ticket is a travesty and a waste of police time.

      I think Peter Ladner’s point about short versus long rides was more to distinguish the type of ride. Contrasting the Gran Fondo with a four block BIXI trip along 10th avenue to buy milk.

      That said, even if the likelihood of being hit at every instant you’re on the bike is identical no matter the rider behavior and location, surely statistically the number of opportunities to be hit is higher on longer journeys?

    • I don’t think that is quite correct. An hour of riding close to home carries the same risk as riding an hour on a longer trip. But when we think of short rides (close to home) we typically think of short time spent on a bike. So my 2min bike ride to the grocery store is inherently safer than my 28 min bike ride to work because it is 14X less time on the bike.

  • DB

    The CoV has a generalized walking program that lets people get hit by cars while in marked crosswalks, any lawyers care to comment on that?

    More seriously, and to the point of Daniel’s measured piece, the Meggs example is instructive. It’s nice that he was wearing a helmet, but running red lights when others with the right of way are fast approaching is not ideal. This suggests that maybe the BC government and the VPD should focus on reducing the running of red lights, rather than chasing after those that are helmet free.

    • Spot on: behavior is what counts, and the helmet law is safety theatre. VPD can’t tell the difference between a structurally sound helmet and one with an internal fracture, so they simply look for hat / no-hat. Instead they must be allowed to focus on dangerous behavior (by all road users of course).

  • Norm Nichols

    If you are going to remove helmets for bicyclists then the same arguments apply to motorcyclists. If there were some way to guarantee that an individual who is badly injured in a cycling accident as a result of not wearing a helmet would not become a drain on the public purse then go ahead unstrap. But there is no guarantee so shut up and strap up.

    • The drain on the public purse is from pedestrians and drivers: 10 000 of the former, and 20 000 of the latter annually in BC, and only 500 injured cyclists.

      Accident rates for all modes of transport – except driving – go down as mode share increases.

      Helmet laws discourage exactly the sort of slow, utility, non-sport, Bixi cycling we need for safe streets, and lower healthcare costs.

    • Max


      As a motorcylist, I would never entertain the idea of getting on a bike, regardless of lenght of trip, without strapping up.

      I am not about to place my life in other people’s hands on a shared road way.

  • Everyman

    Unlike walking, cycling involved the use of a vehicle. A vehicle that comes with virtually no safety equipment other than brakes. A vehicle that is capable of causing great harm or even death when colliding with a pedestrian, or even another cyclist. A vehicle capable of 60 km/h that has a contact patch with Vancouver’s often wet pavement of roughly three square inches.

    That cyclists would argue so strenuously against using one piece of safety equipment appalls me.

    • Nobody’s arguing against helmet use. It’s the helmet law that’s up for debate.

      Helmet laws do not entail 100% compliance, just as the absence of a helmet law does not mean a total ban on helmets. The two do not go hand in hand. The wearing of a helmet is an independent variable vis-a-vis helmet laws: Portland (no law) has higher usage than Vancouver.

      When you enact a helmet law, all of yesterday’s (potential) cyclists do not carry on as before but with helmets donned. Instead 90% of people choose not to cycle.

      • Glissando Remmy

        Anyone who is pushing for more “Usage” vis a vis “Safety” I have news for you… something is not right with you!
        The Portland example is irrelevant.
        Interested to find out the views from a real neurosurgeon on this, not from planners that think of themselves as some new age sophisticated libertines.

  • Thanks for covering helmet choice, Daniel. You and your readers might be interested to know that the BC Liberals’ policy chair, Ted Dixon, has proposed repealing the law here http://www.ideaslab.ca/browse-ideas/idea?ideaId=87 and party members will be able to vote on this at the end of the month.

    • Von Pursey

      Thanks for that link James. Hope the suggestion is taken seriously coming from the policy chair.

    • West End Gal

      What a joke.
      Any advice coming from the BC Liberals Idea lab is a doozie failure! Christ’s team are on the last 100 m and they know it! Anything that could lift their spirit, maybe, but not their numbers in the polls!

  • JFJ

    It’s not just the helmet law under scrutiny but whether helmets provide much or any benefit. It’s easy to base an opinion on intuition, but I prefer a sober examination of the facts. BC introduced its helmet law citing an error ridden study.

    More at the site of The Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation: http://www.cyclehelmets.org

  • Stefan

    As a cyclist I am in favour of abandoning the helmet law – I believe it should be my choice if I want to wear a helmet or not. Most if not all cyclists will continue to wear helmets on longer rides, but for short trips I totally agree with Peter Ladner that it is not necessary . As it is right now, I do not wear a helmet when travelling between 5-10 minutes on my bike, anything longer (or at higher speeds) and I wear a helmet (and would continue to wear a helmet regardless of the law).

  • Imagine we lived in a City where the sidewalks were designed by people more versed in the mechanics of abattoirs than pedestrian space.

    Many would advocate for mandatory chainmail to be worn by all pedestrians to prevent injury, and to alleviate healthcare costs from all the nasty flesh wounds. The use of chainmail would be a barrier to some pedestrians and would become a built-in incentive to drivers. Drivers would be able to look through blood-spattered windows at the chainmail-clad pedestrians and say “he’s crazy to be out there!”

    Many daily cyclists like myself (who, relevant to nothing, wears a helmet 99% of the time, the occasional trip to the corner store the exception) are just the ones pointing out the chainmail isn’t the problem- it is all the damn rotating knives!

    Look at societies that have built safe and effective cycling infrastructure, and they almost invariably do not have helmet laws, because of the infrastructure and education is appropriate, cycling is no more dangerous that walking. In Vancouver, we are still in the unsafe-infrastructure-patched-with-helmet-law phase.

    Someday this may change, and this conversation will be ongoing until it does.

  • Steven Forth

    The short trip example is plain dumb. I am safer on a long ride then a short ride as the long ride is likely along distance route, up Cypress, around UBC, etc. and I am totally focused on the ride. I am looking for the research, but as I recall short trips are much more dangerous per kilometer.

    Is there a design for a Bixi style system that will provide helmets to riders? Let’s try for a design innovation here and see what we can come up with regardless of the law.

    Aside: The Bixi bikes that they have in Montreal, Ottawa and Boston may not suit Vancouver. My wife is slightly above average height for an Asian woman and even at its smallest settings Bixi was a bit too big for her to be comfortable on. If Vancouver is going with Bixi the design may need to be tweaked for our demographics.

  • Waltyss

    For those who think helmets don’t protect, I’ll go with the views of the neurosurgeons over those of the libertarians (or as Glissy calls them, the libertines).
    Having seen a cyclist go under a delivery truck and seen the only thing that saved her at the end was her helmet, I do not accept that helmets don’t protect.
    Peter Ladner’s comment defies logic.
    For those that take the “libertine” position and want to choose whether to wear a helmet or not, I am sure you will not want to interfere with society’s choice not to treat you if you don’t have a Visa card with at least a $25,000 limit to pay for medical care.
    And of course, this site would not be complete without a swipe at Vision and separated bike lanes. The truth of the matter is that those lanes now and over time will encourage more people to ride bikes, overall a good thing.
    I am simply not convinced that if helmets come with bikes (and I appreciate there are logistical problems with that), that the bike share program will not work. I think that it is being used as a wedge by the anti-helmet people to try to get that law repealed.

    • Nobody’s arguing against helmet usage, or that helmets don’t protect. They’ll protect pedestrians and drivers too.

      The beef is with the adult helmet law. The helmet law does not entail 100% compliance, just as the absence of a helmet law does not mean a total ban on helmets. The two do not go hand in hand. The wearing of a helmet is an independent variable vis-a-vis helmet laws: Portland (no law) has higher usage than Vancouver.

      When you enact a helmet law, all of yesterday’s cyclists do not carry on as before but with helmets donned. There is up to 10% of the population that will cycle no matter what the law. That will vary based on infrastructure. Beyond 10% you’re into the realm of normal people who – yes – do care about the inconvenience, the fashion, the hat-hair that comes with carrying a helmet everywhere. They know full well that behavior is what counts, that riding a big slow comfortable bixi-style sit-up bicycle, slowing when they’re unsure, avoiding car-full streets, stopping at stop signs and all that good stuff will put them in no more danger than a pedestrian. And so, just as a
      pedestrian would, they feel ridiculous in a helmet. Calling them names, telling them “you never know!”, isn’t going to get them cycling with helmets. It’s going to get them not cycling.

      When you enact a helmet law, you kill utility, non-sport cycling and with it a large enough demographic to politically support complete streets. Vancouver has done a great job, but boy has it been a long hard slog for not very much. Most of the cycling improvements have been simply anti-car improvements (one-way streets and garden bulges, for example) which manage to command broader support.

      For reasons of congestion, pollution, health, wealth and overall societal happiness I dream of a Vancouver with complete streets and high cycling modal share. Public bike share has been called the ultimate gateway drug to utility cycling, and I believe it. I’m just
      really worried we’re Melbourne-bound with the helmet law left uncorrected.

  • Richard

    Unfortunately, the focus on helmets draws attention away from other more effective ways of improving safety including networks of separated bike paths and lanes, education of motorists and cyclists, motor vehicle speed reduction, better maintenance, removing of hazards on streets and paths and better enforcement of laws that prevent collisions. Many of these measures also improve the safety of pedestrians and people in vehicles as well.


    With around 400 people dying and 25,000 injured on the roads of BC, the large majority of them in motor vehicles, I really question the wisdom of issuing over 9,000 helmet tickets over 2 years. It seems like the police could better protect everyone by cracking down more on drunk driving, texting while driving and speeding.

    • Steven Forth

      Fair comment. And the evidence is strong that the single best way to make cycling safer is to have more people cycling.

      Dare I risk a comment on cyclists rolling through a stop sign? To me this is roughly equivalent to a car going over the speed limit. 5 KM over, no big deal, rolling through at a low speed with awareness of the traffic, no big deal; 20 – riding through a stop sign at normal speed; 30 KM over – blowing through a red courier style.

  • Watch this video and decide whether we should nix helmets.


    • I’m going to judge by that young woman’s attire and bicycle that she was not travelling at a gentle, sedate pace. Safety begins with sit-up bicycles and safe behavior. Stay the hell away from cars, use extreme caution around them.

      Mike, be careful not to confuse helmet laws with helmet usage. Helmet laws do not entail 100% compliance, just as the absence of a helmet law does not mean a total ban on helmets. The two do not go hand in hand. The wearing of a helmet is an independent variable vis-a-vis helmet laws: Portland (no law) has higher usage than Vancouver.

      When you enact a helmet law, all of yesterday’s cyclists do not carry on as before but with helmets donned. Instead, all these people – 90% of the population – simply don’t cycle:

    • Richard


      This is exactly the wrong way to decide important public policy issues. Decisions should be made on the basis research backup by strong evidence. Helmets are only designed and certified for low speed falls. While they probably provide protection in other circumstances such as the one in the video, this is not guaranteed. The claim that a life is saved by a helmet is rather a stretch. In BC, there are several hundred cyclists that experience head injuries in motor vehicle collisions and there are around 2.4 fatalities per year where the cyclists aren’t wearing helmets and around 1.6 fatalities where cyclists are wearing helmets. The rate of helmet usage is around 60% so the rate of injury and fatality is lower for people who are wearing helmets. This is only a correlation though.

      While she most likely fared better because she was wearing a helmet, the claim that it saved her life is probably not the case.

      There is at least one study that seems to indicate that the problem is more alcohol consumption that is the problem. Seems that people who have had a bit (or a lot) too much to drink are far less likely to wear helmets, more likely to engage in risky cycling, are on the streets when drivers are more likely to be drunk and I expect more likely to fall on their heads. This may skew the stats so at first glance it appears that riding without a helmet is more risky when the real issue is alcohol.


      Bottom line is that a review and more research are needed so that either the benefits of the helmet law can be confirmed, changes are made to it or it is eliminated and the focus is on other, more effective ways of improving safety.

    • You are Using Emotional, non evidence based statements to attack the con-helmet community! Could not the same story be said for a pedestrian who got a head injury but died! Could not the same be said for a motorist who didn’t wear a helmet but died!

      If “one life saved is one life saved”, then wouldn’t we better off with pedestrians wearing body Armour! The helmet law is a blanket that covers every aspect of cycling.

      Some people say “we don’t have the infrastructure like in europe” Is the seawall not a piece of infrastructure? Why do people trying to get healthy in separated lanes in europe not need to wear helmets, but people on the bright sunny sunday on the seawall do?

      @Mike pls look at evidence and become aware of each sides arguments before you decide on your position.

      Emotional Arguments are NOT valid arguments!

  • Cristian Worthington

    Anecdotal evidence from Emergency Rooms supports helmet use. This evidence suggests a problem exists, but it is not proof.

    Do helmets cause more neck injuries due to the extra weight and their bulbous shape? Is the riders head more likely to strike an object when the rider is wearing a helmet? Do helmets foster a false sense of security, causing more accidents? We don’t know.

    ER doctors don’t see patients that avoid a collision, so a study of accident victims won’t tell the whole story.

    Full disclosure – I wear a helmet when I cycle.

    I also take vitamins based upon studies that are equally unreliable. But I don’t think vitamins should be legislated into law.

    Does anyone know of a truly independent study?

  • Chris

    This morning, I came across a motorcycle police officer at the intersection at 10th and Quebec, randomly ticketing cyclists for not wearing a helmet. This is the third such “helmet trap” I have heard about this week. I managed to avoid a ticket this time, but have received two tickets since Christmas, as has my wife.

    I spoke to two distraught people who weren’t as lucky. They were enjoying a simple, safe, slow ride along a city bikeway. Something that benefits society in many ways. Why should we punish it? I wouldn’t be surprised if they left their bikes at home for a week. What exactly are we accomplishing with this law?

    We need to end this madness. We need to stop punishing and discouraging people who make the right transportation choices. I’m glad someone has the vision and courage to push the province for a relaxation of the law, to allow everyday, utility cycling to take place. Such a move would also allow the much-delayed and at-risk bikeshare system to flourish. Visit http://www.helmetchoice.ca for more reading.

  • Andrew

    Given that the existing helmet law is pretty well ineffective (given the number of helmet-less riders zooming on sidewalks and so on without danger of legal repercussion), perhaps it should be eliminated. This would at least give some incentive for people to use the new bike program bikes so that they don’t become as much of a waste of our money (yet another Mayor Moonbeam initiative without consultation).

    Since CoV is in an operating deficit situation, you would think that they would focus on core services and not these add-ons that only cost money. Mayor Moonbeam really is on a Happy Planet.

    • Not quite a ringing endorsement, but I’ll take it! Take a minute to add a comment to Ted Dixon’s idea here http://www.ideaslab.ca/browse-ideas/idea?ideaId=87 and see helmetchoice.ca for a template letter to your MLA.

      Love bikeshare, support helmet choice!

    • Ron

      No to tickets for not having a helmet.

      Yes to riding your bike on the sidewalk though!

      • Ron

        Yes to getting a ticket for riding your bike on the sidewalk that is. Are you a road vehicle or not?

        • Andrew

          @Ron…yup, bikes do not belong on sidewalks unless cyclists want to walk their bikes. Otherwise, get on the road where you belong!

          • Sidewalks are bad places for riding, every cyclist would prefer to be on the road: smoother, better sight lines, more predictable surface. If they are on the sidewalk, it is because they do not feel safe on the road – bikes on sidewalks are a failure in infrastructure. See any cyclists riding on the sidewalk on Hornby?

        • Bike Lanes should be intergrated into sidewalks. Sidewalks in Surrey are a different thing than sidewalks in Marpole which is different than sidewalks in Downtown. If nobody walks on suburban sidewalks, Go ahead and ride on it!

  • BC in 2008: ~10 cycling deaths, >10000 CardioVascular Deaths. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/84f0209x/84f0209x2008000-eng.pdf

    This is a conundrum: Minuscule short term risk, or Gigantic Long Term Gain.

    Bike share is for people who are downtown already, and need to get somewhere, like for a lunch, or meeting, or just for getting their heart rate up a bit after 4 hours at their desk.

    Clearly, Meggs got injured because he ran a stop sign, for if he wasn’t wearing a helmet, he would ride slower and safer; Studies show that men who wear helmets ride more dangerously.

    The health benifits of Cycling outweigh the risks 77:1. Yes, you read that correct, for every 1 dollar in increased head injury medical costs, 77 dollars are saved in lowered Health Care Healthiness costs. http://cyclehelmets.org/1015.html

    Helmet laws reduce Cycling levels by ~30% when they were introduced in 1996, with NO DECREASES IN HEAD INJURY. In fact, a study showed that the number of head injury:cyclist ration before and after the helmet law actually increased! http://cyclehelmets.org/1103.html

    Great Post Daniel!

    • Ron

      Oh no, not facts!!!!

      That the facists want to enforce their dress code on others just so they can save health care money (easy solution, privatise health care, and I can take it up with my insurer) is just a sign that shows how weakly the public responds to their freedom taken away.

      Watch the actual evidence be ignored and the bleatings about safety based on annactodal evidence win the day.

      Le sigh.

  • Thought of The Day


    Repeal the Helmet Law… Wow!
    Now, think of the possibilities!

    Don’t need to repeal anything.
    You don’t want to wear a helmet?
    No problemo.
    Go ahead.
    But before anything, sign a Liability Release Form that relieves the City of Vancouver, its taxpayers and the Medical Services Plan of any responsibility in the eventuality of you suffering from any bike related injury to your stubborn head.
    There. No overhead costs.

    Or… perhaps I’m wrong.
    Perhaps, people not wearing helmets have nothing to worry and/ or protect. And that, my friends, is the only explanation I understand and am ready to accept!

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

    • gman

      Glissy lets dump the law then drivers will win the war on cars through attrition….mwahahaha.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0KK2Q9r9CU

      • gman,

        Here’s what they are advocating.
        In this video… the 5(FIVE) on a bike, NONE with Helmets on… they ALL survived… with rather superficial injuries. Only one injured, psychologically … the driver of the mini truck. 🙂


        … “so as you could see from the video, Your Honor, my Client here, the unsuspecting driver of the small truck, who if you allow me, was scared shitless, by this group of riding Wallendas, so he is asking for compensation for lost wages, due to stress and recurring nightmares”…

        • Ron

          I have wiped on a bike probably a hundred times in my life (including going over the bars and even running over another cyclist who was riding on the wrong side of the street) but I am just fine.

          I wear a helmet now (odd at this old age to start but whatever) but I still resent being FORCED to wear one. Don’t the cops have something (one would think anything) better to do than ticket people over this?

        • gman

          Ouch !!!!!

        • ned

          Holy cow! And they said … all escaped with no threatening injuries, holy cow!

    • Ron

      I was unaware that cycling was so dangerous that you need to sign a release form. By that stretch one would need to do that simply to walk out the front door.

      It’s a shame we don’t have private vehicle insurance either since then the choice of whether or not you have to wear a helmet on even that should in fact be between you and your insurer.

    • @ Glissy and @Mike: You are digging a hole for yourself.

      Emotional videos and statements are not valid arguments when no facts are involved!


      How many people fall and hit their heads in that video above? Even with no helmets! (Warning: Loud music)

  • Max

    I find it somewhat commical that the City, just this past winter, made helmets mandatory when ice skating on public rinks.

    And now to benefit a program they so desperately want to put into place in order to help their ‘all things green’ dream, they want to see the helmet law repealed – not just for Vancouver but all of BC.

    How self serving.

    • I find it distressing that you would misrepresent the Park Board’s official position on skating and helmets when the correct information took less than a second to Google.


      New Helmet Policy For Skating Lessons

      Effective Feb 1, 2012 all skating lesson participants must wear
      a CSA-certified hockey helmet* or a snowboarding helmet.
      In accordance with new safety measures, cycling helmets are no longer permitted. A limited number of hockey helmets are available free of charge for lesson registrants at Park Board rinks.

      *CSA-certified hockey helmets are also recommended for public skate participants.

  • Max

    We aren’t talking about a small sum of money here – we are talking $20M over 10 years to ‘subsidize’ this program.

    Meanwhile services are being cut in order to balance budgets.

    • Ron

      That will learn you to be a Vancouver taxpayer!

      Now if only we could get the south of fraser out of translink we could at least have a border to cross safe of the ideologues.

  • G. Timmerman

    I have just finished reading your column about riding your bike with- or without a helmet. I understand the importance of the debate and I would like to comment on it.

    Why doesn’t government and citizens look at country’s where riding a bike is an essential part of getting around, like in The Netherlands. Where I am from. I moved here three months ago and have noticed that riding bikes has become popular.
    In The Netherlands it is mandatory for kids in elementary school to do a bike road test. The whole class gets on their bikes and police officers help them and guide them understanding the rules of the road. This all without helmets. So from a young age, people are taught to ride their bikes properly. Resulting in less accidents. In a country where its necessary to bike, its it necessary to know how to bike. And we laugh at the Germans that come over for holidays, biking around, wearing helmets. Because it looks funny. Nevertheless, it is definitely a tool to protect yourself.

    I know how to ride a bike. I will never wear a helmet. Because my hair might get messed up. My solution to the problem: Let people be informed about riding a bike safety and properly, and then let it be their responsibility.

    (submitted by email to City Caucus)

  • Andrew

    All fine and dandy and The Netherlands is always the model since cycling is part of the culture, it’s generally flat, cities old and compact and old and hard for cars to get around, and they have good mass-transit. How many of those things apply to Vancouver? Not flat, not overally extensive mass-transit, not old or compact…

    Also, do we want to have this as a police mandate? RCMP vs. municipal and who organizes and contracts that, who pays for that, etc.? We pay through the nose, eyes, ears, everywhere for policing let alone for property taxes in general with no wiggle room anywhere. I would rather have better snow removal those 3 days a year than police teaching kids how to ride bikes. That’s what training wheels and cul-de-sac’s are for!

    • Ron

      Don’t really need the cops to teach kids the rules of the road.

      But there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. Not everyone lives on a cul-de-sac!

    • boohoo

      You would rather have snow removal over education.

      Yikes–no wonder we live in a reactive rather than proactive environment.

  • Richard

    @Glissando Remmy @Mike @gman

    The battle of youtube videos. What a great way to decide public policy. No need to have public consolation or expensive research studies, just do a quick search on youtube and there you go. No long reports to read. Just grab some popcorn and enjoy.

    Thumbs up!

    • gman

      Richard Im really on the fence about this subject although I lean more towards no helmets for very different reasons than you,mine have more to do with my distaste for the nanny state.But what I find offensive is giving twenty million dollars to a private company and changing a law to promote an agenda.Why doesnt Gregor go down to canadian tire with that twenty million and buy two million $100 bikes and city workers could drive around the city and shovel them off the back of a truck.Then at least we would all have bikes.And then we could take all that canadian tire money and spend it on bikelanes,pure genius if I do say so myself.

      PS:Richard try not to loose your sense of humor
      PPS:And if we are worried about peoples health all we have to do is keep running bike stories it seems to get peoples heart rates up.

      • Richard


        My last post was partly an attempt at a bit of humour. Maybe I have lost my sense of humour.

        The $20 million ($1.9 million per year) is not all cash going to a private company. It could be city staff time or waving of permitting fees, etc. that helps to facilitate the system. It all still has to be negotiated.

        Now, a good question to ask is how much is the helmet sharing system going to cost to set up and operate. If there was an exemption to the law, this cost would not exist. Would the system be able to run with less or no subsidy, in kind or otherwise, from the city?

        • gman

          Fair enough Richard,I understand this is your thing and your very passionate about it but no matter how you dice it its still twenty million dollars in public funds and I cant agree with a subsidy for any kind of privately owned endeavor.And if its like you said that it all still has to be negotiated that tells me we have no hard numbers and I wonder how they arrived at twenty million,it sounds like they pulled it out of a hat or helmet if you prefer.I think the city providing public space for them to set up at no cost could be acceptable even to me but until I see some hard numbers on how much the owners are willing to risk on this even that might be a no go.So I guess you and I will have to agree to disagree on funding and as far as the helmet thing,as I said before Im on the fence but I don’t think we should change laws just to accommodate what would appear to be a rather weak business plan. I would hope it could all be worked out because I think it could be a good thing except for the reasons I put forth.

  • Brilliant

    @Chris-My heart bleeds for your anecdotal couple ticketed for breaking the law. Do you weep for motorists ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt?

    If someone’s more concerned about their hair than a brain injury, they’re too stupid to be riding a bike. Second thought, maybe its just another form of natural selection.

  • jenables

    What i think is really rich is the idea that if we create this bike utopia, helmets will be rendered completely unnecessary as no one will be falling off their bike, the rain will stop falling and every bike will be in perfect working condition all the time, especially after all hills of any sort of grade are removed. I’m not too interested in a nanny state either, but i suppose if they can ban smoking outside in parks, because some people really believe that those outdoor second hand cigarette fumes are making them sick but demand no sort of accountability for indoor air quality, then they can punish you for not protecting your head. I really think a lot of these people need to see the really ugly side of head injuries, not that i wish that on anyone. Besides wasn’t the ticket for not wearing a helmet twenty nine dollars? And isn’t this law under enforced? Are you seriously trying to tell me there at scores of people who are dying to commute by bicycle but cannot risk the 29 dollar ticket for no helmet so they choose not to ride??? Can i talk to one of these people? Because i would think any other form of transportation other than walking is going to cost more right off the bat, which makes me think this illogical argument is moreof a weak theory solely put together to vilify helmets in general. Besides, wouldyou really want your kids choosing no helmet? I would like answers to these questions, very curious. I also like “helmets make cycling look dangerous” … It’s almost like some people want to completely remove any personal responsibility from cyclists, ignore the reality of any type of transport, make decisions based on what it should be like. And that attitude is so very dangerous for everyone.

    • A little ranty, but I want to pick up on one point:

      “Are you seriously trying to tell me there at scores of people who are dying to commute by bicycle but cannot risk the 29 dollar ticket for no helmet so they choose not to ride?”

      It’s not the economic cost: it’s the breaking the law part. Most people don’t want to break the law: they feel bad about it. Being ticked off by a policeman is designed to be an uncomfortable situation. This is a good thing for society as a whole.

      There is up to 10% of the population that will cycle no matter what the law. That will vary based on infrastructure. Beyond 10% you’re into the realm of normal people who – yes – do care about the inconvenience, the fashion, the hat-hair that comes with carrying a helmet everywhere. They know full well that behavior is what counts, that riding a big slow comfortable bixi-style sit-up bicycle, slowing when they’re unsure, avoiding car-full streets, stopping at stop signs and all that good stuff will put them in no more danger than a pedestrian. And so, just as a
      pedestrian would, they feel ridiculous in a helmet. Calling them names, telling them “you never know!”, isn’t going to get them cycling with helmets. It’s going to get them not cycling.

    • Kids don’t enter into it: nobody is asking to repeal the law for under-19s. See also smoking, drinking, driving, voting, gambling and makin’ babies.

      • Max


        I thought it was up to adults to lead by example rather than do as I say, but not as I do.

    • @ Jenables

      I thought the Seawall was a separated facility. I also thought that there are no hills on the seawall. Maybe if the seawall wasn’t located in BC then your point would be valid.

      Yes you can talk to me. My reply would be: “Its not only about the 29$, it’s also about the shame of breaking the law. In fact, according to ICBC, 4000 people on bikes are ticketed each year for not wearing hard hats… on the seawall, a separated facility. I don’t carry a helmet when I’m downtown, and if I have to get to a meeting 7 blocks away quite quickly and I don’t want to break the law, I can NOT use bikeshare!”

      • jenables

        Seawall? I don’t see how that is relevant. My point was that many of the conditions for falling on a bike are permanent realities which we cannot change. Like the rain. I suppose your point is that cars are the only danger to cyclists, and the only reason one would wear a helmet, other than to be law abiding, even though falling off a bicycle or riding into something stationary, etc are fairly common scenarios which a bike helmet is designed to protect your head from. Did that make sense? I’m still not sold on the helmets are stopping people from cycling thing. Again, it wasn’t 4000 tickets issued on the seawall, it was province-wide. So that’s about eleven per day issued in the entire province, and there isn’treally a social stigma around getting one of these..at least around the people I know

      • I might have misinterpreted the meaning in “Creating a bike utopia” as the seawall is a bike utopia. People do fall on the seawall, but isn’t the seawall flat and just like copenhagen where there is NO helmet law? Yet few people fall in separated facilities in Copenhagen.

        There’s LOTS of evidence that helmet laws decrease cycling levels: http://cyclehelmets.org/1201.html In BC it was lowered by 30%, N.Scotia by 40-60%.

        So my point is that yes, people do fall on utopian bike lanes, but in 95% of countries with utopian lanes, there is no helmet law because it is not needed.

        The helmet law is a blanket that covers all aspects of cycling in all ways in all cities without evidence.

        • jenables

          Grr, just lost my original response after getting a text, for some reason… It was a little less direct than this. The reference you cite is pretty ridiculous. Here are some examples:
          Nova Scotia: all-ages legislation implemented from July 1997. On road counts before and after the legislation showed a decline in numbers of 40-60% (LeBlanc, Beattie and Culligan, 2002). Note: the authors of this paper have denied that their count data can be used to infer a drop in cycling. However, in their paper they state: “In 1995/96, 1494 cyclists were observed on 17 days. In 1997, 636 cyclists were observed on 19 days. In 1998/99, 672 cyclists were observed on 13 days”. Assuming their counting methodology was even vaguely systematic in terms of site, weather and time of day, their figures in fact strongly support a major drop in cycling having occurred with the enforcement of the law.


          British Columbia: all-ages legislation came into effect in September 1996. There are no on-street count data available, but the sharp reduction in cyclist casualties between 1995 and 1997 would lead one to infer a decline of about 30% in cycling. There was no improvement in head injuries to children as a result of the law (BHRF, 1103).


          The authors cite the Cochrane Review of bicycle helmet effectiveness in support of the view that helmets are effective to prevent serious head injuries. They ignore studies carried out in Australia and New Zealand that found no evidence that mass helmet use had changed the risk of serious head injury in a crash (Robinson, 2006).

          Citing only half the evidence reveals lack of rigour.

          That last sentence is speaking to the converted, and it’s the same reason I scoff at the “numbers” substantiating the nova Scotia claim, without any other relevant information, or controls whatsoever. I see in BC we are taking it upon ourselves to assume and infer as casualty rates plummet it can only mean ridership plummeted as well, ..not even considering the possibility of safety improving?

          In the last example they only look at data from bicycle “crashes” without seeing if helmets were effective for other types of bike accidents.
          Now, about the seawall…again, those other places for the most part aren’t in a mountainous coastal rainforest, so by noting that people still fall here I feel you are backing me up.

  • My first contribution to the bike helmet debate…from an August 2007 Vancouver Sun story written during my around the world journey http://tinyurl.com/buwtwl3

    It seems surprisingly relevant to today’s discussion!

    • Complete streets and repeal the helmet law. This has been the prescription for decades.

      Cost cannot be the issue. Paint some lines, move parking in a lane: bingo. If the city buys the paint and planters, hundreds of us will volunteer to come out and complete the streets.

      If I may connect this local action to the bigger picture, the Rio conference is going on at the moment. Our current streets are unsustainable, and are costing Vancouverites a fortune: the buses are snarled among cars, cars require sending money outside Vancouver weekly to buy gasoline, and cost a fortune in insurance and maintenance.

      For want of some paint and planters, our public servants are impoverishing us, killing us and our children with unsafe streets, and as good as stealing from the small businesses on arterials, whose business would be much improved with a better pedestrian environment. The economic activity at Car Free day was intense.

      • Jason

        Somehow I knew that this would be the reply…

        The rate of fatalities for those wearing helmets is lower than those that don’t. So I think that one could safely assume that if the law was repelled, and fewer people are wearing helmets, that fatalities would increase.

        I’d still love someone to answer the substance of my question.

    • Michael, a very thoughtful op/ed written from the beaches of Brazil, I gather, in 2007. Did you ever live up to the promise to yourself to ride your bike more if there were separated lanes and more parking, especially now that it exists?

      I remain convinced that the most urgent matter relating to cycling in Vancouver continues to be bike theft. I hear no solutions or advocacy forthcoming on this right now, but I’m intending to be at the Velo-City Conference beginning Monday, and will keep my ears peeled.

  • Ken Lawson

    Many of you as usual do not get the point, the majority of Vancouver residents do not want Vancouver to be a biker friendly city, when was the last vote taken, there was not one. Helmet laws must stay rigid-ed and expanded.

  • babalu

    Is it true that Glissandro Remmy, reputedly the illegitimate son of Rush Limbaugh’s father and Ayn Rand, injured his head in a bicycle accident when he was 12?
    Glad he’s off Frances Bula’s blog though. The dialogue, while it may be partisan at times, can be constructive and civilized. Could he take Higgins, West End Gal, Morry and Michelle etc… with him? And put helmets on them.

    • gman

      You may want to re post your comment over at Bulas you could put it right under GRs last comment at 9:44 this morning.

      • Glissando Remmy

        Thanks, gman.
        I went over this comment accidentally as I was browsing down the page. Too funny. Apparently, the Vision posse sent over here at City Caucus only the illiterate ones from over at Fabula. There… they keep only the ‘creme a la creme’!
        I’m truly sorry Babalu, if you don’t speak Spanish:

        Babalu aye
        Babalu aye
        Ta empezando lo velorio
        Que le hacemo a Babalu
        Dame diez y siete velas
        Pa ponerle en cruz.
        Dame un cabo de tabaco mayenye
        Y un jarrito de aguardiente,
        Dame un poco de dinero mayenye
        Pa’ que me de la suerte.


        Naah, I didn’t think so!

        • gman


  • Sandy James

    I have been fortunate enough to use the shared bike systems in many European cities and used bicycles for site visits in Amsterdam with their City Planners.

    In Amsterdam there is a dedicated separated bicycle facility and clear rules for motorists when sharing the road with bicycles. Vancouver does not have separated bike facilities or good motorist education regarding bicycles. And accidents can happen at any speed in any situation. No separated facilities, no car driver education, my helmet is staying on.

    • When you enact a helmet law, you kill utility, non-sport cycling and with it a large enough demographic to politically support complete streets. Vancouver has done a great job, but boy has it been a long hard slog for not very much. Most of the cycling improvements have been simply anti-car improvements (one-way streets and garden bulges, for example) which manage to command broader support.

    • ned

      Thanks for a commonsense in-the-know comment, coming from a cyclist.

    • Jason

      Pretty sure that in Amsterdam, utilizing the separated bike lanes, is mandatory. If we’re building the infrastructure, and we’re concerned about safety, perhaps we should insist people also use the infrastructure on the roads where it’s available….especially if we’re considering removing helmet laws.

      • ned

        I don’t thing “we are” … “considering removing helmet laws.”
        You are! There’s a difference.

    • The last time I checked, the seawall was a separated facility.

      The last time I rode on it, the Hornby Street Bike Lane was separated from cars. Your point being…?

  • Johnny Needles

    Look, folks. It’s very simple. If you ride a bicycle and don’t wear a helmet you deserve to have your head cracked open. There is absolutely nothing more to it than that. NOTHING.

    • Look, folks. It’s very simple. If you go for a walk and don’t wear a helmet you deserve to have your head cracked open. There is absolutely nothing more to it than that. NOTHING.

    • Look, folks. It’s very simple. If you walk in the street and don’t wear armour, you deserve to have your body split open. There is absolutely nothing more to it than that. NOTHING.

      Look, folks. It’s very simple. If you walk down the street and don’t wear hard toed shoes, you deserve to have your foot cracked open by a needle. There is absolutely nothing more to it than that. NOTHING.

  • Max

    What I find interesting; the cycling ‘advocates’ in Vancouver are all up in arms about the helemt law because it may directly impact their agenda of all things cycling and the deperate want of this bike share program.

    Yet, the helemt law governs all of BC and where other cities/municipalities/townships more than likely aren’t dumping $10’s of millions of dollars into biking infrustructure.

    So, do the cycling advocates of Vancouver have the right to hoist their will onto the entirety of BC?

    • You’re absolutely right that municipalities vary greatly in their street design. Vancouver has invested heavily in bike-specific infrastructure (seawall, two downtown lanes) and in calming streets more generally (one-way entrances, garden bulges etc.)

      This is why one-size-fits-all is a bad law. Municipal police must enforce this law. Municipalities must decide whether they need it, or whether their citizens are responsible adults using quiet streets and seawalls.

  • Brilliant

    Thank you again Kyle for what a poorly balanced vehicle a bicycle is.

    • A bicycle may be poorly balanced according to your theories, but at least YOU ARE IN CONTROL!

      The falling people in the video do not hit their heads because they are in control of how or if they fall. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lqo4hwnJt6Y&feature=player_embedded Notice that the cyclists just get back up and ride with no problem! Their hands can shield their heads if needed, but of course, a 60 year old women wouldn’t even need to wear a helmet. Cycling is a safe activity!

      I meant: Cycling is a VERY safe activity!

  • Jason

    Could someone give me the “success” rating for the entire undertaking at this point, as it would make me feel better if we had a specified goal, achievable within an acceptable time period, for all of this.

    We know, based on every other bike share system in the world, that we’re going to lose a lot of money running this. Probably a couple million dollars of tax payers money a year. We also know that, if we remove the mandatory helmet laws, there will be more head injuries. So we’re willing to pay X dollars for the bike share system, and allow X number of people to get killed or seriously injured (adding costs to our health care system) by removing the helmet laws, in order to achieve…..what? The goal is “more people cycling”, which I’m in favor of, but shouldn’t there be SOME cost based analysis going on here. Shouldn’t someone be saying “what is the specific number additional cyclists on the road that make the entire undertaking worth it?”. How can you judge the system, and these decisions to be a success or failure if the end goal is just a general goal of “more people cycling” rather than a specific number. How can anyone be held accountable for their decisions? (or is that the whole idea)

    Does anyone have a specific goal number they can share with me that isn’t sometime in 2025?

    • “We also know that, if we remove the mandatory helmet laws, there will be more head injuries.”

      I’m not sure we do know that, for two reasons

      1. safety in numbers
      2. today’s cyclists are mostly the speedier, riskier kind (male baby boomers). The additional ones would be from a broader demographic and so, on average, more prone to caution, strict obedience to traffic signals, seeking out quieter routes etc.

      The demographic that cycles under a mandatory helmet law is not representative of Vancouverites as a whole. When you enact a helmet law, all of yesterday’s cyclists do not carry on as before but with helmets donned. Instead most normal people just stop cycling.

      There is up to 10% of the population that will cycle no matter what the law. That will vary based on infrastructure. Beyond 10% you’re into the realm of normal people who – yes – do care about the inconvenience, the fashion, the hat-hair that comes with carrying a helmet everywhere. They know full well that behavior is what counts, that riding a big slow comfortable bixi-style sit-up bicycle, slowing when they’re unsure, avoiding car-full streets, stopping at stop signs and all that good stuff will put them in no more danger than a pedestrian. And so, just as a
      pedestrian would, they feel ridiculous in a helmet. Calling them names, telling them “you never know!”, isn’t going to get them cycling with helmets. It’s going to get them not cycling.

      Repeal the law, allow them to cycle.

    • In terms of stats and goals, then, I’d argue you max out at about 10% of people who will cycle under a helmet law. To break above that, you need good infrastructure of course, but you also need to let people ride dressed as pedestrians, without fear of ticket or chastisement.

      One goal we might look at is success of the bikeshare system. Each bike being used multiple times per day.

      Toronto’s 600 bikes are used 60 000 times in a month.

      Melbourne’s 600 bikes are at about 10 000 trips a month:

      Vancouver’s $2m a year is heading down the second black hole.

    • Jason:

      It’s more likely that this very new innovation will adapt its business model to achieve revenue neutral or even profitable operations in relatively short order. The Washington DC system is one that’s doing pretty well financially, plus other jurisdictions see it as an extension of public infrastructure that should be cost effective rather than a profit center (as an aside). So I don’t think you can toss out blanket statements that the Vancouver system is a sure thing to lose “a lot of money” especially if Vancouver’s project incorporates the lessons being learned in other places.


      • Jason

        Interesting article given that it states repeatedly that almost all cities are still subsidized, and talks about “potential” for the future.

        I don’t know why people are so bloody afraid to commit to some numbers. I would THINK the math would make this easy to justify….lets for a moment suggest I’m right, and it’s going to cost the city $2 million a year to run this program, and the result is an additional 20,000 riders…that means the city is paying $100 per additional person, per year, to get them out of their cars and riding a bike. Which again, I think could probably be argued reduces costs in a variety of other areas.

        Committing to goals, and providing specific targets is not a bad thing Chris….it gives the general public an idea of what the city is trying to accomplish and allows them to make up their own minds whether the cost is worth it. In my example above I would argue that they would more than likely say it is.

        But without any specific targets, and vague numbers, it’s hard to make a substantive argument for or against the removal of helmet laws or the cost of bike sharing. Again, I think the numbers are on the cyclists side, that’s why it’s all the more frustrating that no one is ever will to state/commit to them.

    • To answer your question, most bikeshare systems are in fact profitable! NO, NONE of public money is needed to subsidize 90% of bikeshares, including DC, NY etc. There may be some foreshadowing here of failure already because public money is involved.

      Even if it is subsidied 2 mill. a year, it can be compared to spending 3.4 million on left hand turn lanes on 33rd at knight. The cost is further justified with the healthier people, (>10,000 people die from cardiovascular disease in BC each year compared to ~10 cycling deaths), lowered road maintenance of fewer cars downtown, increased productivity from a short exercise to the nearest meeting, and savings in time.

      So in conclusion, bike share is usually profitable, 2 million is not much compared to other projects, and the non-direct benifits of bikeshare amount to >2 million.

      • Jason

        JKKT, I believe you just repeated exactly what I said about a 2 million dollar subsidy.

        The point I am making is that there ARE costs to these programs, and there are costs to removing helmet laws. These should be laid on the table, and then we look at these costs in comparison to the proposed targets/outcome. Everyone can then make a decision as to whether it’s worth it. Again, to repeat my previous statement, I think the bike share program will be easily justified with moderate increases in usage. The helmet law I can’t really comment on because the costs (life/medical/etc.) need to be calculated…but again, calculating the costs may well justify a repeal, or at least lead to some very intelligent changes to the law.

        Getting more people cycling is a good thing…I’m certainly not debating that. I simply would like, with each expenditure, for our government to go through the numbers, the goals, etc. and be honest about what it’s likely to cost, and what the goals are for the expenditure….that’s good policy, it’s good government, and it helps make wise decisions. Otherwise, we run the risk of making stupid decisions that “feel good”, or on the surface seem to make sense, but in the long run don’t actually achieve their stated objective.

  • Richard


    The government could simply grant an exemption from the helmet requirement for a bike sharing system. They have already done this for pedicabs, religious head gear and for people with very large heads. It would not affect the requirement in other cities.

    That said, after 16 years, a comprehensive review of the law is in order to determine its impacts based on the latest data and evidence would certainly make sense.

    • gman

      Even if we gave an exemption to the bike share program I would imagine we would still want to require kids say under 16 yrs.to wear helmets and if the bike share didn’t put in place some kind of apparatus to accommodate them then tourists with families or families that may want to use it on downtown excursions would be left out?

    • Max


      Then why are some of the cycling advocates commenting on this site using the words ‘repeal’ when discussing the helmet law?

      • Shorthand

        • Max


          The comments don’t read as ‘shorthand’. Including some of those posted by yourself.

          There is a big difference between repealing a law and enacting an ‘exemption’.

          The first and specific to this topic smacks of self entitlement – we, in Vancouver, want this bike share program to work, so WE want to change the law of the province and the other cities/municipalities/townships can deal with the outcome.

          • Municipalities can enact their own bylaws. Vancouver has made great investments in safe, complete streets.

  • Richard


    Children typically are not allowed to use the shared bikes. They are too big for younger children anyway. Tourists are not the main market for the shared bikes. There are plenty of rental stores that can provide the right sized bikes for children along with helmets for them.

  • gman

    I guess it was inevitable that this would be made LMAO
    now all we have to do is wait for the opposing view to make theirs.

  • It is not whether you go for long vs short rides. It’s sport vs utilitarian.

    People racing cars wear helmets. Us nipping down to the corner store, or going to work, don’t.


  • gman

    I wasnt very familiar with BIXI so I did a quick search and what jumped out was stunning,last june they ran into financial problems but I wasnt prepared for the huge numbers.They received a 108 million dollar bailout..wow.
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2011/06/20/bixi-report-mtl.html Then later in November the CEO stepped down http://www.citytv.com/toronto/citynews/news/local/article/167866–bixi-ceo-to-step-down And as of now they have yet to produce accounting but are projecting another 3.5 million in loses.I think all the talk about helmets has caused us to take our eye of the pea.

    • Note that BIXI was the first ever bikeshare in N. America, and their deficit was only 37 million. with ~70 mill for exporting the product. Many Bikeshares are profitable.

      But the real benifit comes from healthier people, (>10,000 people die from cardiovascular disease in BC each year compared to ~10 cycling deaths), lowered road maintenance of fewer cars downtown, increased productivity from a short exercise to the nearest meeting, and savings in time.

      • Max

        @JKKT – Kyle:

        You seem to asume that people will with cardio diseases of sorts will automatically participate in a bike share program.

        Do you have stats to back this up?

        And I am guessing we have spent more money these last couple of years instituting ‘bike’ programs/infrastructure etc. than we have on general/ road maintenance.

        Let’s start with the ongoing decay of the Burrard Street Bridge. Have you walked across it lately? Seen the wearing of the posts? All the rebar that is showing and rusting? It is a true disgrace to see a such a historic icon of the city left to crumble. But hey, lots for money for bikes.

        Priorities after all, right?

        There are many people in this city that will never bike – especially with an aging popualtion, those that have to cart kids around, those that travel from the suburbs to the city for work, and those of us that are required to be presentable at the office.

      • gman

        Kyle you seem to be misrepresenting the numbers but even at that how can you say “only 37 million dollars” huh….only? What was said in the first link is “In May, city council approved a $108-million bailout package for the program, including $37-million to cover Bixi’s deficit, and another $71-million in loan guarantees to export and develop the system abroad.” Then later trying to explain how they will honor the debt they say “He said among the options they are considering is selling off Bixi’s export division to private entrepreneurs.” So they are going to sell off what is supposed the most profitable part of the bizz to cover the debt,if they do how will they ever expect to be profitable? Then the last line “Bixi was first set up in Montreal in 2009. In 2010, startup costs had it running at a deficit of more than $30 million.” Thats a huge number wouldn’t you say?Then there is this from the second link”Earlier this year, Plamondon had said Public Bike System Co. was cash-strapped and its suppliers were waiting to get paid. He had said the financial problems were being caused by a dispute over a $108-million loan bailout.” To me this sounds like a pyramid scheme and to date they still are unable to present any figures for 2011.And this huge loss was created in a no helmet jurisdiction.Until we are provided with some hard numbers the helmet issue is secondary.Your reference to cardio numbers makes no sense at all unless you think BIXI will get every person in the province on a bike for 20 minutes a day and even at that then cycle injury rates would rise.

      • @ Max,

        Yes I do have stats, as I wrote in my comment, 10,000 people die from CardioVascular Disease each year, which can be prevented by moderate exercise. Obesity in Canada costs the government >6 BILLION dollars a year, much more than 37 mill for a bike share, and much more than the increased health care costs of a few more head injuries a year.

        Though many in this city will not bike, the majority of the people will bike if it is convenient and safe.

        I do not expect all boomers to get on a bike, and for some, I don’t expect their slower reaction times to be able to get behind a wheel safely. Transit is an answer, but for the increasing population and decreasing traffic, a separated lane on burrard won’t hurt.

        Studies show that the majority of vancouverites support increased cycling and walking facilities.

        Yes I have ridden my bike over the bridge just last Friday, and the bike lane has no effect on the erosion of the bridge’s structure.

        Lots of money for bikes??!!! Are you kidding me? 12.5 million a year for bikes, and 3 million for a set of left turn lanes at 33rd at Knight? Priorities?

    • Dave Brockaw

      That info is incredible, gman! Behind all this Bike-share program there is a huge interest for misappropriating public money and pass them to private pockets. As they say “follow the money and see who-s benefiting” in the end I’m sure we’ll find lots of the usual suspects of the past years…
      But the magnitude of subsidies this venture receives is astonishing!

  • hms

    If this law is such a good idea, why do almost all jurisdictions NOT have it. And why did Denmark consider and then reject it? And why did Mexico City and Israel have one and then repeal it?

    Mainly because study after study shows that it’s bad for public health in that it keeps people in their cars instead of on bikes (the more people on bikes, the healthier we all are)

    The mandatory law also gives a misleading image of cycling – that it is a dangerous sport. Of course people in fast snow sports should wear helmets, and so should racing cyclists and mountain bikers. But a senior citizen riding a few blocks for a jug of milk getting a ticket for not wearing a helmet, is absurd. And this is the type of cycling we should all be encouraging. Cycling is not a sport for many – it’s a valid form of transportation.

    Having the VPD waiting on bike routes to ticket cyclists(as they do regularly) instead of dealing with important safety issues, is a waste of our tax dollars.

    I’m not against wearing bike helmets. I wear one on busy streets, in the dark and rain – but I take it off when I ride slowly up a bike route because I suffer from overheating – it’s very hot and uncomfortable. But I risk receiving a ticket every time I do this.

    One other reason why the law is bad is that it adds to the antagonism between cyclists and drivers. “Why should we give cyclists separated lanes when some of them don’t wear helmets” is an argument that appears often in letters to the editor.

    I was recently in Barcelona where they have a wonderful public bike share system. No-one wears a helmet (except racers in spandex). I don’t see how we will get a successful PBS if this mandatory law remains in place. What a shame.

    Let’s follow the wisdom of the rest of the world and encourage cyclists to wear a helmet when it makes sense, but not penalize cyclists when it’s not.

  • Alex

    Here is a crazy thought…… Whatever happened to being a responsible adult?!!! This life that I am living is mine and mine alone. If I choose to ride without a helmet, guess what?… That is my choice and my choice only. I have no need for a a nanny nor someone to be looking out for my safety! I am old enoight to make my own choices… Come On people this is where the world is going wrong! We sit here waiting for someone else to tell us whether we are being safe or not. Grow up, be responsible for your own decisions. If you ride without a helmet and get hurt, guess what? Too bad for you, you made the choice, don’t come back crying, trying to sue the city or anybody else for that matter. GROW UP CANADA!

    • Higgins

      yes Alex, suuuure, that’s what Banks said and did to the World! They did not want any Gov. regulation, supervision, control, intervention… unless when they needed their money (our money) to bail them out! You “two” are two of a kind, and your suggestion is.. for the rest (me included) to pay your medical bills in case of life changing accident, as aresult of not wearing the helmet. Sweet!

    • waltyss

      Alex: and I guess they should have $25,000 of room on their credit card to pay for their own medical care.
      The “nanny state” is just the government making you do something for your own good even though you don’t want to because of the social cost. People want to be masters of their own head so long as we all pay for their injuries. Uh, no!

  • Brilliant

    Sure Alex and why can’t you build your own house without having to get those darned permits? Why should you be forced to get a license to drive? Why should you have to wear clothes in public?

  • building permits – because someone could get killed
    driving licences – because someone could get killed
    clothing – because… actually I have no idea. Stupid rule.

  • boohoo

    Just saw Mike at the viva street wearing his helmet! Wonder if you caught Gil Pênalosa? Vancouver look pretty small town in comparison. So immature….

  • Max

    @ James D: June 26:

    ‘Municipalities can enact their own bylaws. Vancouver has made great investments in safe, complete streets.’


    I am reading this statement that you and the other cycling advocates are speaking for all of BC.

    Vancouver is on your agenda and that is all that matters. Every other township etc can fend for themselves as long as you get what you want.


    • Steven Forth

      What Max, you think one size should fit all and that each municipality is unable to come to its own decisions?

      • Bill

        Are you suggesting that cities should be able to opt out of any law enacted by a senior government or only bicycle helmets since they are getting in the way of a Progressive pet project?

    • boohoo

      I love how you just assume a bunch of stuff, extrapolate it to mean some other stuff and then act so outraged about that stuff you extrapolated from some assumptions. Ridiculous.

  • Maddy

    Sick of this medical bill nonsense. If you’re going to suggest that cyclists not wearing a helmet should have to pay for their own treatment let’s add smokers, fast food lovers, lazy people, skiers, elderly people going outside for a walk….all these same people are taking risks too, yet we pay out the ass for their care.

    And there is evidence to prove that helmets can cause greater injury than not wearing one but absolutely NONE proving they work. Best we’ve gotten is that they “may” be effective in accidents under 20kph, and only if you hit the crown of your head. That doesn’t sound like even close to enough evidence to justify a mandatory law! In fact it more suggests to me that wearing a helmet should be a choice based on what kind of cycling you do!

    And all these bull statistics stating how many cyclists due not wearing helmets compared to those who did isn’t proof. We often don’t even know how the non helmet cyclists died. If they died of a ruptured spleen, how would a helmet have helped? And with some statistics, when compared to percentage that do wear helmets, it can end up showing that wearing a helmet made you more likely to be killed. To compare how stupid and information lacking these recent studies are, it’d be like noting how many driving fatalities had individuals wearing a seatbelt. If you were to use the same logic, it’d then apparently make sense to have a mandatory ban of seatbelts!

    • Richard Unger

      Dear very Maddy,

      Did you go to Medical School?
      Do you have your Doctorate hanging on your wall inside your office?
      Have you specialized in ER Trauma?
      I DO!
      Have you ever opened a skull with a rotary tool to relieve the swelling and lower the intracranial pressure on the brain, caused by a… concussion?
      I DID!

      So until you you at least have a single claim on any of the above… shut up!
      You selfish adults, you put more emphasis on your appearance than on someone’s well-being!

      I should have refused treating ignorant idiots like yourself, but I couldn’t because I cared.
      Apparently you and your ilk do not give a damn.
      Shameless punks.

      Dr. Richard Unger MD (Ret)

      • boohoo

        You stay classy ‘doctor’.

        Might want to freshen up on the comment policy here, you certainly aren’t following it.

        • Mira

          could you spare us the sentiment?
          After reading Maddy’s comment, I’d say Dr. Unger was too nice in his comment. Way to go Sir! Thanks for taking in the punks and open up to the ‘boohoo’s of the blogosphere. Is there a way to show all this runaways an instructional movie re. the Emergency Ward at any of the Hospitals in Vancouver?

  • jenables

    Maddy, if you ever get a chance to take a critical thinking class, please do. It is very useful in determining for yourself what to believe and what makes an argument fallacious.

  • boohoo

    Yeah mira, personal insults are being ‘too nice’. Maybe he should threaten too next time ro really ramp up the pleasantries.

    Disagree with someone all you want–when you start calling the other person an idiot and selfish punk etc… You’ve lost.

    • Mira

      Wow boohoo,
      From all people, you’re talking!
      The personalization of principle, integrity and higher values LOL!
      You know what? I’ve been called an idiot myself over at your beloved Frances Bula propaganda blog, and don’t remember you jumping on the enraged citizen wagon like you do in here! Go there and ask you friends !

  • boohoo


    Sorry I’m not monitoring every thread for good behaviour… They shouldn’t have said that just like the ‘doctor’ shouldn’t have.

  • jenables

    Boohoo, just curious.. As someone who drives to work every day because cycling is too dangerous, how do you feel about all these people who are now saying it’s not dangerous? If it is dangerous, should you wear a helmet, or will you not as it may relay to others who might want to cycle that it is dangerous. See, I’m confused because over and over again we are told we need to make cycling safer. Suddenly, when it comes to cyclists taking a small amount of caution for their own safety, we are told it’s not dangerous and interferes with their freedom. When confronted with these contradictions it turns out that helmets don’t do anything and are actually dangerous. (despite my research, mind you i have been looking at data other than just cyclehelmets.org, because there are big holes in their data and i would love to know who is behind the site) so boohoo, what’s your personal opinion here?

    • boohoo

      I carpool to work mostly because of the distance, not sure I said because it’s too dangerous? I would feel uncomfortable riding parts of it because of pinch points that’s for sure, but I’m not a big cycling guy–I’m sure others would find it to be no problem. But it’s basically too far on a bike.

      I don’t really care about the bike helmet debate, I haven’t said really anything about it in this thread. If people want to wear helmets, great go ahead. If not, fine, it’s your risk, perceived or otherwise.

      People do ‘risky’ things all the time and society covers those costs. Just like bike lanes, the whole helmet debate is insignificant in the bigger picture.

    • Steven Forth

      There are two key things that make cycling safer. The more cyclists the fewer the accidents. The more segregated bike lanes the fewer the accidents.

      That said, I have had one accident where my helmet hit the road and I am very happy to have been wearing it. I always wear a cycle and personally would be nervours to use a shared bike without one. But what really hekps with safety is to be aware of traffic patterns. I study this site every year to remind myself of the risks and how to avoid them. http://bicyclesafe.com/

  • jenables

    In my opinion, promoting the idea that other people should be responsible for your your safety is the most dangerous action of all. Promoting the idea that choosing one mode of transport over another deserves to be rewarded with no personal responsibility and Absolves you from the rules is irresponsible and deadly. Making up the rules as you go along or arguing a moral high ground when it comes to traffic rules is arrogant stupidity. Reap the health benefits of exercise yourself as your reward and empower yourself by taking steps to be alert, defensive and safe.

  • jenables

    I have been doing a lot of thinking about this as I have been driving around in the last few days observing people in cars and on bikes. I read a lot of statistics stating the highest percentage of fatalities occur in the evening between 8 and 10 and men in their forties were seemingly at the highest risk. at this time of night the sun is starting to go down and the lights from street lights and other cars can overpower the things around them, although it still may be light out. although I disagree with sending the message that helmets don’t do anything and it won’t help you prevent head injury, because I think it is common sense that a helmet absorbing the blow of concrete is better than your skull, I wonder if the greater problem is a lack of proper lighting on bicycles. I can see how easy it would be to think because you can see other people that they can see you but at this time of day, i wouldn’t assume anything, and i wouldn’t drive my car without headlights on. I would love to see larger single beam lights on the front and rear, not thOse terrible weak flashing ones. is there no technology that has been invented for a headlight powered by pedalling, it seems like an obvious solution to me.. But that glow in the dark bike frame was also so awesome. Ck, i mentioned this glowing frame in a different thread, do you remember? Also boo, i think you said you drive because it took a third of the time as transit and cycling was too dangerous..i think.

  • boohoo

    Yeah I carpool because of the time/distance. Dangerous isn’t really an jssue–probably just crossing the bridge on/off ramps.

  • Betty


    Very balanced article on the helmet law in BC.