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Cycling helmet laws here to stay in Vancouver 0

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson would like to see the city's bike-share program succeed without a change to the controversial bike helmet law. (FILE PHOTO)

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson would like to see the city's bike-share program succeed without a change to the controversial bike helmet law. (FILE PHOTO)

While world cycling experts are in Vancouver to debate the merits of bike-share programs, the province's transport minister is firm the current mandatory helmet laws will remain.

With Velo-City Global 2012 conference opening today at the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel, bike sharing, a system where customers can pick up, ride to a destination, and drop off bicycles at different stations, will be a heavy topic at the four-day event expected to attract up to 1,500 delegates.

Despite critics recently suggesting such a bike-share program wouldn't work in B.C. with the current helmet rules, Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom dismissed any immediate plans of relaxing the laws Monday.

"We have to make a determination as a society if it's a safety issue, and we want that safety issue dealt with, then helmets are the way to go," he said.

"If not, then we're going to have an open discussion on it. But right now we have no plan on changing that."

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, meanwhile, said he's seen firsthand the challenges of riding without a helmet in Paris, a bike-share city.

"It's not the safest city to ride a bike," he said of his France experience.

"I'd like to see Vancouver succeed at a public bike system that includes helmets."

Robertson will be one of many speakers during the conference. More than 20 other academics, cycling advocates and business people, among others, will address bike sharing.

University of B.C. professor Jinhua Zhao, a speaker on Thursday, noted there are numerous helmet-sharing concerns, but dismissed it as "crucial" for the program.

"If I have to supply my own helmet it kind of defies the point. To share helmets with others, make it public, it's difficult. Even the storage is difficult, also the hygiene and other issues," he said. "As the fundamental problem that would kill the program, I wouldn't go that far."

City of Vancouver speaker Scott Edwards further added helmet sanitation would be a focus for the local proposal, to remove the "ick" factor in sharing.

Other topics on discussion include integrating cycling with transit, safety analyses on urban cycling, pedal-powered tourism, and more.


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