News Local

Debate rages on B.C.'s bike helmet laws

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Further criticism of B.C.'s bicycle helmet laws were pedalled forth at the Velo-city Global 2012 cycling conference Wednesday - this time by the CEO of the company expected to gear up Vancouver's bike share system.

"It does concern us. I know the helmet regulation is a barrier to public bike sharing to a certain extent," said Alain Ayotte, CEO of PBSC Urban Solutions - the company providing the BIXI bike share equipment.

"I understand the purpose, I respect that, but it's still a barrier because the impulse for the tourist is not there."

Ayotte pointed to a similar program in Melbourne, Australia, which uses both vending machine distributed helmets and "coupons" issued after renting a bike to be exchanged at convenience stores for a helmet.

The company found the bike share program's usage there was at least "a bit lower" than in places without helmet requirements.

A cycling advocate from the Netherlands, meanwhile, during a lecture Wednesday, accused helmet requirements of generating a "fear industry" in the province.

"They manage to give the impression that cycling is a very dangerous thing to do . but the vast majority (of people) would avoid doing dangerous things," Hans Voerknecht, from the Dutch Knowledge Platform on Mobility, told the conference.

"You could even argue it's very good for car drivers to have a helmet."

Negotiations on integrating helmets for the anticipated Vancouver system are still ongoing. While nothing has been signed, Ayotte said, the "option of choice" is a vending machine system where users can purchase helmets from most, if not all, of 125 proposed bike share stations throughout Vancouver's central core.

Citing hygiene, size and repair concerns, he added refundable or returnable helmets for the proposed system "may be not the right way to go."

However, recyclable build-it-yourself helmets - suggested to be made of reinforced carton paper - are also still in the equation despite the preferred vending option.

In B.C., 70.4% of those killed in fatal cycling accidents in the past five years were not wearing helmets, according to coroners.