CORNER BROOK The City of Corner Brooks remains pleased with the level of compliance with its bylaw regarding bicycle helmet regulations.
The bylaw was first put in place in 1994 before being amended in 2008. The law requires all cyclists using city streets to wear a Canadian Standards Association approved helmet unless prevented from doing so for medical or religious reasons, such as traditional or ceremonial headwear.
Deputy Mayor Donna Luther said children in the area are taught the value of wearing a helmet from an early age and as a result, most riders tend to wear a helmet voluntarily.
“I think parents from a young age parents in the city make sure their kids are in the habit of wearing a helmet,” Luther said. “As they get older, it’s just natural for them to put one on. Seeing people around, I think there’s huge compliance.”
The issue of bike helmets was brought to the forefront after a study by University of Toronto family physician Dr. Navindra Persaud recently appeared in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Reviewing police and coroner reports from 129 cycling deaths in Ontario from 2006-2010, researches found 94 riders weren’t wearing helmets. In other words, those not wearing a helmet were three times as likely to die as a result of a bicycle accident
The ages of the deceased riders ranged from 10-83 and 86 per cent were male.
Combined with recent statistics from Victoria, Australia which indicated fatalities from cycling accidents decreased by 48 per cent after laws making helmet use mandatory pushed helmet compliance from 31 to 75 per cent, the value of wearing a helmet becomes clear.
“Logically speaking, if you fall off your bike without a helmet on, you’re going to do some major damage,” Luther said. “Once you get into cerebral bleeds and things like that, you’re dealing with serious medical conditions.”
While it has been in place for some time, Paul Barnable, the city’s director of community services, said to his knowledge, no citations have been issued as a result of the bylaw.
Unlike offences covered under the Highway Traffic Act, he said the municipal bylaw would require those charged to be issued summary convictions and appear in court since the city doesn’t have the ability to issue tickets for such offences, unlike parking tickets for example.
“It makes enforcement very difficult because primarily you’re dealing with minors who you really don’t want to drag through the court system,” Barnable said. “On top of that, you are clogging up the courts with these type of offences. If it were under the Highway Traffic Act, it would be more enforceable than it currently is.”
Luther also pointed to the difficulty of enforcing the bylaw and said in order to do so, municipal enforcement would need to work around the clock at the expense of taxpayers for a law most citizens are already adhering to.
Still, she said having the bylaw in place is better than not having one at all.
“At least you have it in your back pocket that if you see someone riding a bike without a helmet on ... the municipal police can stop them,” she said.
Barnable said most municipalities have similar bylaws and are all faced with the difficult issue of enforcement. He said there is a delicate balance between giving citizens the impression that the law is being enforced even though it’s virtually impossible to do so, and in issuing a few token citations in order to make an example out of those disobeying the bylaw, something the city doesn’t want to do.
He said local police have done a good job of educating the public about the need to wear a helmet, something which is perhaps even more effective than any law.
“The RNC do go into schools and try to educate children on the safe practices when using a bicycle,” he said. “We rely upon them and they do a really good job but it’s really more about education than it is enforcement.”