Don’t Get Busted
As of May 1, anyone under 18 in Manitoba is required to wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet while cycling. At least that’s what the kids are saying. In fact, you’ll be seeing these kids a lot around town, thanks to a broad media campaign we recently worked on to inform the public about the new helmet legislation, which could mean a $50 ticket if you’re not properly attired in the latest in protective noggin wear.
Now don’t go shooting the messenger here. If I had any power over legislation, every Friday would be a stat holiday and there would be no tax on liquor.
It’s no secret that if you’re a good person and/or I like you, I would strongly encourage you to wear a hemet. If not, assuming you are over 18, you can do what you like. Regardless, in spite of what some will think, this is not a campaign devised to terrorize people or convince them of the dangers of riding a bike. I’m pretty sure they would have hired Winnipeg CyclingSucksChick to do that.
The argument goes something like “But you don’t have to wear a helmet when you drive and there are way more car accidents and fatalities than bike accidents and fatalities!” While this may be true, if you check your drivers’ licence, I’m going to go out on a limb and bet it doesn’t say you live in Copenhagen. Here in Manitoba we’re still in our cycling infrastructure infancy, and those of us who ride bikes are by far the minority in a sea of confused but well-meaning drivers who haven’t got a hot clue how to respond to a cyclist on the road. Throw in some shitty road conditions, ice, bad luck, texting, and a handful of hostile drivers and you have one potentially volatile situation. Plus, if you compare a person in a car to a person on a bike and can’t tell who is more vulnerable – then perhaps you don’t really need a helmet after all. And remember, if you’re over 18 you still have a choice.
Back in 1984 when they introduced the law that said you have to wear a seatbelt when you drive, I’m guessing that as pissed off as you were, you reluctantly strapped yourself into your Chevy Nova – if not to avoid flying through your windshield, to avoid a ticket. Now it’s second nature. I for one feel a bit naked when I don’t have my seatbelt on. And that annoying beeping makes me want to kill something.
The cost of a helmet and the trouble to put it on is hardly worth griping about. And really, is your hair truly so incredibly awesome that a helmet is an insult to it’s very existence? If so, lucky you Mr. Hasselhoff. My hair is a hot mess, with or without a helmet, and furthermore I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t look very hot eating my meals through a straw.
Many thanks to Jenna, Olli and Aaron for helping us spread the word to the fine citizens of our fair province.
Great msg. WCC, it is a constant reminder in our house for our teens to wear their helmets, the legislation makes it a little easier to convince our 17 yr. old. Also at the risk of being “one of those guys” I need to point out that we were a little slow to take to the whole seatbelt thing here in the keystone province as it didn’t become mandatory until 1984 so we were flying through our windshields for nearly a decade after Ontario.
Thanks Gord! I have the worst research assistant ever.
I have a reluctant (now outraged) 13 year-old who is in the same boat as your teenager, which is urprising since I barely so much as wash my bike without a helmet on. This does take the pressure off and makes “The Man” the object of his scorn as opposed to me. I can live with that.
Excellent campaign. I have hopes that my 13-year-old unicycle-riding neighbour will put one on his head now.
Can’t wait to hear all the grumbling and griping from people about the “nanny state” interfering with their lives. Oh wait, that started last year.
Brochure looks great- we got ours from my son’s school last night.
Thanks Ciara! It was a pleasure to work on the campaign and we have been getting great feedback so far. Cheers!
Excellent work! Message is so important, hopefully like many great and worthwhile ideas originating in Canada they will filter down south of the border.
PS: just sent Hal money for the Jersey!!
For young and inexperienced riders, helmets, like training wheels, make sense. But the underlying message with helmet laws is that cycling is dangerous. And although this is not the intent of the helmet law campaign, we will see a significant drop in bike ridership amongst youth as a result.
This may not be Copenhagen, but you don’t get to a bike riding Nirvana by scaring people away from an activity whose health benefits outweigh risks by a 20:1 margin. As biking advocate Mikael Colville-Andersen says: “If cars were treated like similarly dangerous products (ie. cigarettes) they would be required by law to have 30% of their exterior covered in health warnings.”
When pedestrians, who have a higher incidence of noggin injuries, are required to wear helmets, I’ll wear one too.
Thanks for your comments, it is indeed an interesting debate that is well worth having.
In places where helmet legislation has been implemented, there is no research to suggest that it has any effect whatsoever on ridership. There is, however, plenty of research that shows that the majority of cyclists (91% according to one national U.S. study) who die in motor vehicle crashes were not wearing helmets.
While cyclists make up only about 2% of traffic deaths, biking in the U.S. and Canada only account for about 1% of all travel, representing a disproportionate segment of road deaths.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think wrapping everyone in bubble wrap, or staying in the safety of your couch’s bosom is the answer. The risk is indeed small, and the health benefits are huge. But I also think that it’s possible to encourage cycling without ignoring the reality that a helmet could save your life.
It’s not really the right law, as the anti-texting law was not really the right law (there is evidence that texting accidents have increased since the law came into effect because people are still doing it, just more covertly — like down at their crotches — which requires eyes completely off the windshield). Gary is right. Pedestrians — in particular over aged 70 — are more at risk for head injury by a huge margin. This law, like the texting law, is popular with the public (in particular the non bike riding public) and therefore is politically popular, but it isn’t really backed by evidence.
Your campaign though, CC, rocks!!
Anti-texting law and pedestrians? They’re comparing pumpkins to apples. The examples are weak and the validity behind the aforementioned numbers is questionable. Cycling is not dangerous but catapulting and falling on your head is. No matter how skilled or experienced a rider may think themselves to be, inexplicably becoming airborne and hitting their head is not in their control. If there are any secrets on the matter I ask them to share so that we can do away with the ridiculous debate.
Are pedestrians are more at risk of head injury by being hit by a car? Or just from falling over? I’m curious…Regardless, given the number of people who walk (basically everybody) I can’t fathom that the percentage that suffer head injuries is proportionately higher than the comparably miniscule number of people who cycle. While the incidences of pedestrian injuries may be higher, would the cyclists’ risk not be higher?
My understanding is that the law was in fact based on research and evidence collected in other jurisdictions that have implemented the legislation. It’s complicated, imperfect, and very difficult to substantiate, but based on my experiences through this project, I don’t think it was done to gain public approval – quite the contrary – it was done in spite of the potential for public backlash.
I am a cyclist I wear a helmet and my 3 kids wear their helmets. There is no discussion around this issue because it is simply a smart thing to do. I do believe that the government has the right to make laws that encourage safety. Adults are allowed to vote and challenge those in power if they disagree with any approach, but in the end we need rules. This is absurd.
Kids on bikes need to wear helmets and if some stupid parent does not insist that their 5 year old (who is riding to school in traffic) should put theirs on then I am perfectly fine with a law that forces them to.
As for those same adults who ride without a helmet that is their choice but REALLY??????? If my 8 year old knows it is dangerous to ride without a helmet shouldn’t you?
I have no comment on helmets, but I would like to point out the Tyndall Stone in the background of the second ad.
Thanks Matt. The conversation was getting a bit heavy, wan’t it? I do love these shots of the provincial team kids. They were all shot in the Engineering Building at the University of Manitoba, in front of scores of confused and curious aspiring engineers.
Hi, I emailed tetro hoping to reach you, but I will leave this comment, too. I run a blog of the week feature in the Free Press Sunday Xtra. I’d like to use your helmet post this Sunday. Would that be OK with you? I will point readers to your website and run a blurb about you at the end if you send me one.
On a shallower note, damn those kids are getting to be pro models.
As far as I know, Australia and New Zealand are the only two countries where cyclist helmet law has been actively enforced and that also has longer time period for reference. You can find at least the NZ research #’s online, and while I am quite stats illiterate, it appears that the ridership had dropped by at the very least 20% on long term.
There are also other countries, such as the one I am from, that have a recommendation for helmet use, and according to stats, the helmet use has sky rocketed over the last 10-15 years while also cycling has become more popular.
Do you catch more bees with honey or vinegar?
I really enjoyed the video. Nothing irks me more than seeing someone take the time to buy a helmet and the have it on backwards or hanging half way off their head (or worse yet, hanging off their handle bars). Why bother if you aren’t going to do it right?
I’d prefer to leave the use of a helmet a decision for adults to make for themselves, however I would recommend one. I know at least 5 people who have cracked their helmets on the pavement both on and off road, and each of them are glad it wasn’t their skulls.
I drive so little that I have, on more than one occasion, forgotten to take my helmet off when transitioning form bike to car. I look like a fool, but the truth is, at this point it just feels right/natural to be wearing a helmet when moving forward. Sweaty hair and all.
Last summer I went over the handlebars while riding alone on a quiet residential street. Other than road rash and quite a bit of embarrasment (there was a cute female witness) I also landed on my head. The helmet was cracked in half and I didn’t even know that until I got home and took it off. I always thought helmets were important for riding in traffic, but now I realize they are just essential every time you get on a bike. I also know I will never find a helmet that doesn’t look stupid on me!
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