Feeding a troll

I know, I know. We should let the Vancouver Sun editorial board have their fun in peace, ignore their provocative link-baiting and treat their print edition as the fish’n’chip wrapper it is.

I just thought this editorial was a nice collection of common fallacies, lined up like sitting ducks in a barrel (?) for easy pickings. Here goes:

Let’s have a mental exercise with a few simple hypotheticals.

First: You are on your way home from work on your commuter bike, running about 35 km/h down a hill on a bike path, when you lose control and find yourself flying over the handlebars. Do you think it would be better to be: a) wearing a bicycle helmet; or b) sporting your well-worn baseball cap?

1. Most importantly, no law doesn’t mean no helmets, and vice versa: having a law doesn’t immediately cease all such incidents. I can agree that in a given situation, you’d be better off in a helmet - for example, you’d also be better off in a helmet if you walked into a lamp post. That’s not a good reason for a pedestrian helmet law.

2. Totally depends how you land. Put your hands out, maybe? Roll on the grass?

3. If you’re not wearing a helmet, why are you going 35km/h downhill? Chill. Frankly, I’ll happily endorse the police pulling over speeding cyclists, before I’ll endorse them pulling over people in tuques. It’s speed that kills.

Second: Your favourite uncle wobbles off on a bike as part of his new weight-loss regime, leaving the helmet you bought him behind. Do you: a) shrug your shoulders about rights in a free country; or b) secretly wish the government made the old goat put a lid on his head the way they once forced a car seatbelt over his shoulder.

1. If he’s a wobbling cyclist in training, maybe he should be armoured up.

2. Similarly, he’s hopefully learning slowly on safe, protected routes. If he has a little tumble, the old goat can dust himself off perfectly easily. He’s not soft like you kids today!

3. He could just as easily wear or not wear a helmet, whether there’s a law in place or not. Passing an adult helmet law doesn’t instantaneously put “the government” behind every bush, “making old goats put a lid on”. The actual enforcement results of the helmet law - as we see in Vancouver - are a) police parking their motorbikes on safe bike routes at commuter times and picking off safe, slow cyclists on safe, slow streets b) police, and the media in general, ignoring other dangerous behavior that leads to collisions, and ignoring tried and true solutions to such collisions, namely infrastructure.

Three: Your seven-year-old son asks why he’s wearing a helmet and you are not as the two of you set out. Do you say: a) your head is harder than his; b) lecture him about the evils of the nanny state and tell him to take his off too; or c) sheepishly realize it might be better to set a good example.

To quote Mr C.K.I dunno. It’s your shitty kid. You fuckin’ tell ‘em.” Are you seriously telling me you’re willing to keep cyclist numbers at unhealthily low levels, and completely block Vancouver bikeshare with all the transit and quality-of-life benefits that brings, all “because you don’t want to talk to your ugly child for five fuckin’ minutes?”

Do you vote? Do you drive? Do you enjoy a hoppy or grape distilled beverage on occasion? Did you even perhaps conceive your delightfully inquisitive progeny in an act of (whisper it) sexual intercourse?

Well then maybe you should ‘sheepishly’ realize it might be better not to do those things, to set a good example, since clearly the same rules apply to kids as well as adults.

Just to spell it out, the reason we sometimes have different rules for kids is that they’re kids: they’re not adults. They’re still learning how to be responsible. They’re testing boundaries, taking risks. Different parents and different kids have different bounds for those risks, and there’s plenty international legal variation, but most countries have some rules that apply to kids and not to adults. Indeed, many jurisdictions do have that difference for bicycle helmets (and actually the evidence of its impact on child cycling numbers is not good, but I don’t want to get into that here).

There is, of course, strong evidence that bicycle helmets can prevent head injuries.

Some would dispute the strength of this evidence, but I won’t here. Wearing a helmet might be a good idea for a given individual behaving a particular way on a particular street. Go for it. But eating broccoli is also a good idea: it’s full of iron, you know. That doesn’t mean we need a mandatory broccoli law, even if that might really help bring down our healthcare costs.

Buying and wearing a bicycle helmet is a small thing. The next generation will take bike helmets for granted the way they now accept the wearing of head protection for hockey and skiing.

1 . Skating and skiing to work is, as far as I know, still very rare, even in Canada. Sports cycling is a niche hobby, often with special equipment and so, yes, akin to hockey or skiing. Please do not confuse this with regular cycling.

Cycling simply involves a pedestrian and a bicycle. This is why it is a common every-day mode of transport globally. This is why bikeshare has been such a global success. It’s simple, easy, uncomplicated, safe.

2. If buying and wearing a helmet is such a small thing, why do you not call for everybody to wear one all of the time? While walking (because, to make the spurious sports comparison, hikers sometimes slip off mountains, you know) or while driving (because racing is a dangerous motorsport)?

3. The next generation will indeed wonder what all the fuss was about. They’ll wonder why BC (and the Maritimes, ok, I’ll give you that one) persisted in this ludicrous experiment, while the rest of the world pressed on safely without, and the evidence piled up that mandatory adult helmet laws worked directly against the stated policy goals (and obvious economic, environmental and quality-of-life benefits) of increasing cycling modal share. They’ll wonder why the Vancouver Sun wasted editors’ and readers’ time (and then they’ll spot the car ads, and they’ll understand).

They’ll also wonder why I bothered feeding the troll, and they’ll have a point.

Taking My Helmet Ticket All The Way and Winning

The following text was sent to Sit Up Vancouver by reader Ryen Froggatt. We’re extremely grateful and pleased to share his experience, which will hopefully inform, inspire and encourage our readers.

It was a fine March day in 2012.  I was cycling on my “sit up” bicycle along the 10th Ave. bike route.  Just as I crossed Commercial Drive, heading west, I saw the lights from a motorcycle cop.  Quickly, I veered right to the alley[1].  My only hope was he didn’t see me and I could possibly avoid a fine, if in fact he was out ticketing cyclist.  Moments later I could here the motorbike approach from behind.  He saw me and I was ticketed for not wearing a helmet [2].  As soon as I got home, I sent in my ticket to fight it!

Like most people, I have nothing against helmets.  In fact I wear one regularly when I ride my road bike.  But, it’s got drop bars, 18 gears, disk brakes. iI’s super light, and super fast:  I don’t have much trouble keeping up with traffic in the downtown core.  But on the day in question I was riding my single gear super-slow ‘60s clunker along the designated, traffic-calmed, tree-lined 10th avenue bikeway. The bike is slow, has a certain graceful style, and is even a step through (just for those days when I want to wear a skirt or pretty dress!).  I never feel as if I’m in any danger when I ride it.

Fast forward one year (yup) and I receive in the mail my court date, set for July 2013.  Now, I know I’m technically guilty of the infraction, but it’s the principle of the thing, right?  

When my court date arrives, I put on my best shirt, tie, nice pants, and cardigan, get on my sit up bike (with no helmet) and ride on a glorious July day to the law courts at 800 Hornby.  

I have never been to court before, and have no idea of how these proceedings work or what the protocol is.  My time is set for 1:30 in the afternoon and I arrive at 1:00.  The courtroom is closed and there is nobody around so I simply take a seat and wait.  Slowly more people start showing up and the waiting area is getting full.  Then, police start showing up, RCMP, VPD, and even Transit Cops.  The police officers, outside the courtroom, start calling peoples’ names, bringing them aside and have hushed conversations with them.  Suddenly, I hear my name, and a VPD officer wants to see me.  I get up and follow him into a small room off to the side, he goes through and finds my file.

“Not wearing a helmet, eh?” he states.

“Yup”, I reply.

“Well, what do you plan to do?” he asks.

“Fight it.”

“Fight what?”

“My helmet ticket!”

There is a pause, and he is looking down at his papers and not looking me in the eye.  The pause continues for another moment till he breaks the silence, “Okay.”  

I exit, and then sit and I down and wait.  The room is buzzing as a Transit Cop is trying to explain to a small Asian girl (ESL, or at least feigning it well) why he gave her the ticket in the first place.  He is being fairly aggressive about it as well.  From what I gathered, she didn’t have her U-Pass on her, so she was ticketed, and the Transit Cop is trying to explain that she got the ticket for “Failing to Provide Proof”.  He is actually getting upset that she keeps saying, “but I had one, just not with me.”  On they go for another minute or so.  All the while my VPD officer keeps walking around the corner with a bit of a scowl on his face and looking me in the eye and then walking back.

I’m starting to realise that this whole “Pre-Hearing” meet with your cop is supposed to be your one last chance to admit guilt and leave without entering the courtroom.  From my perspective, they don’t want to take this inside and they would rather settle it outside the courtroom. It looks like they intimidate you to try and get you to just admit guilt and leave.  

Moments later the door opens and everybody from the waiting room enters and has a seat except for my VPD officer.  Somehow he knows he is the first cop to go up.  He goes through three cases before he gets to mine and all three of them were for problems with their motor vehicle, like a burnt out head lamp, a missing front license plate etc.  All of these were dropped because the drivers had proved that they fixed the problems with a photo in the “Pre-Hearing” part of the trial.

Next was me.  I go up and stand to the right facing the Judge, we greet each other and he then asks the officer, “What would The Crown like to do?” and the officer replied, “We don’t wish to proceed.”  “Okay” says the Judge and he turns to me and says, “you are free to go.”  And that was it!  I thanked the Judge and the officer and left.

From what I gathered, nobody wants to be there and nobody wants the paperwork.  However, if I were an asshole towards him in the “Pre-Hearing” he could have gone for it.  I think at that point I could have even had a conversation with him about my views and how I have to go through with it on principle.  I could have told the officer that I always wear a helmet on my road bike, but never feel in danger on my slow, single-speed sit-up bike.  Maybe he would be a bit more sympathetic to my case, which would have been more of a guarantee that he would have NOT proceeded in the real hearing.  I wasn’t an asshole, but I wasn’t nice either, which could have pissed him off enough that he would have gone through with it just to get me.  But, anyway, he didn’t. Quite the education.

——

[1] Rather than quickly turn down the alley, Sit Up Vancouver recommends dismounting and walking past officers, if you spot them up ahead. They may still stop and ticket you, but they are less likely to.

[2] There’s no mention of a debate at the scene, which is smart. If ticketed, you should accept it passively and save your energy for court. Cops won’t change their mind at the scene.

Seatbelt laws and adult bicycle helmet laws

A reference list to dismiss this common, spurious comparison.

  • Seatbelt laws are nationally and internationally ubiquitous. Adult bicycle helmet laws are not: only BC, the Maritime provinces, Australasia and a few US cities have adult bicycle helmet laws. Alberta, Ontario, Quebec don’t. No US state does. No country in Latin America, Asia, Europe or Africa. Mexico City and Tel Aviv had them and repealed them. While we shouldn’t unthinkingly copy other jurisdictions, our anomalous law should give pause for thought. We are not leaders.
  • Cars have engines and travel quickly (>15kph) making them inherently dangerous. Bicycles have no engines: Bixi bike-share bicycles in particular (and “sit up" cycles in general) are designed for safety, comfort and stability over speed.
  • Seatbelts hold the body inside a metal roll cage. Helmets offer no protection to spine or limb, nor against rotational injury.
  • Seatbelts come with the car and fit universally. Helmets must be individually fitted and carried separately.
  • There is no evidence that seatbelt laws discourage driving. There is some evidence - most notably, the abject failure of Melbourne bikeshare - that adult helmet laws do discourage cycling. (For doubters on this point, repealing the adult helmet law in BC on a trial basis would allow useful data to be gathered.)

Old people: Wear a helmet to prevent injury

May 30, 2013

Vancouver, BC – The brain is one of the most complex and important organs in our body, yet only 0.01 per cent of British Columbians over 65 choose to protect it with a helmet while at home.

With falls at home the leading cause of head injury for over-65s in Canada, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is encouraging seniors to protect their heads and don a helmet.

“Our skulls can be fractured at relatively low speeds,” says Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer at VCH. “Whether it’s tripping over a pet or getting out of the bath, wearing a helmet will give you an added layer of protection and absorb the shock of any impact. Up to four out of five home fall brain injuries could be prevented if everybody wore a helmet.”

This is especially important for seniors since they are less steady on their feet and are a growing demographic. In fact, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, falling at home is the leading cause of severe brain injury to seniors, accounting for 49 per cent of all head injury-related hospital admissions. A helmet that fits properly protects the head by absorbing the force from a crash or fall, decreasing the risk of traumatic brain injury in seniors by as much as 88 per cent.

“At the end of the day, we should take whatever steps we can to stay safe and prevent injury,” Dr. Daly adds. “Cuts, bruises and broken bones will heal, but brain damage can be fatal.”

Tips for buying a helmet, courtesy of ICBC

  • Your helmet should have CSA, ANSI, ASTM or SNELL standards approval clearly designated on it.
  • Make sure the helmet fits properly. It should be snug but not uncomfortable. The bottom of the helmet should sit parallel to the ground, and you should be able to just fit two fingers between your chin and the strap when it’s secured.

VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.

Original Source

Drivers: Wear a helmet to prevent injury

May 30, 2013

Vancouver, BC – The brain is one of the most complex and important organs in our body, yet only 0.01 per cent of British Columbians choose to protect it with a helmet while driving.

With motor vehicle collisions the leading cause of head injury in Canada, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is encouraging people of all ages to protect their heads and don a helmet.

“Our skulls can be fractured at relatively low speeds,” says Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer at VCH. “Whether it’s a collision with another car or simply slipping and hitting a tree, wearing a helmet will give you an added layer of protection and absorb the shock of any impact. Up to four out of five traffic-related brain injuries could be prevented if everybody wore a helmet.”

This is especially important for child passengers since their brains are constantly changing and growing. In fact, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society, traumatic brain injuries are the leading cause of severe injury to children in cars, accounting for 29 per cent of all traffic-related hospital admissions. A helmet that fits properly protects the head by absorbing the force from a crash or fall, decreasing the risk of traumatic brain injury in children by as much as 88 per cent.

“At the end of the day, we should take whatever steps we can to stay safe and prevent injury,” Dr. Daly adds. “Cuts, bruises and broken bones will heal, but brain damage can last a lifetime.”

Tips for buying a helmet, courtesy of ICBC

  • Your helmet should have CSA, ANSI, ASTM or SNELL standards approval clearly designated on it.
  • Make sure the helmet fits properly. It should be snug but not uncomfortable. The bottom of the helmet should sit parallel to the ground, and you should be able to just fit two fingers between your chin and the strap when it’s secured.

VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.

Original Source

Pedestrians: Wear a helmet to prevent injury

May 30, 2013

Vancouver, BC – The brain is one of the most complex and important organs in our body, yet only 0.01 per cent of British Columbians choose to protect it with a helmet while walking.

With the beautiful weather just around the corner, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is encouraging people of all ages to protect their heads and don a helmet.

“Our skulls can be fractured at relatively low speeds,” says Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer at VCH. “Whether it’s a collision with a car or simply tripping and hitting the ground, wearing a helmet will give you an added layer of protection and absorb the shock of any impact. Up to four out of five traffic-related brain injuries could be prevented if everybody wore a helmet.”

This is especially important for children since their brains are constantly changing and growing. In fact, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society, traumatic brain injuries are the leading cause of severe injury to children in cities, accounting for 29 per cent of all traffic-related hospital admissions. A helmet that fits properly protects the head by absorbing the force from a crash or fall, decreasing the risk of traumatic brain injury in children by as much as 88 per cent.

“At the end of the day, we should take whatever steps we can to stay safe and prevent injury,” Dr. Daly adds. “Cuts, bruises and broken bones will heal, but brain damage can last a lifetime.”

Tips for buying a helmet, courtesy of ICBC

  • Your helmet should have CSA, ANSI, ASTM or SNELL standards approval clearly designated on it.
  • Make sure the helmet fits properly. It should be snug but not uncomfortable. The bottom of the helmet should sit parallel to the ground, and you should be able to just fit two fingers between your chin and the strap when it’s secured.

VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.

Original Source

Montreal BIXI bikes

As heard April 20th, 2013 on The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean [Podcast]
Originally aired: May 14th, 2010
Not to be used without permission

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The great British Science fiction writer, H.G. Wells, who wrote The Time Machine, and The First Men on the Moon, and The War of the Worlds, and spent virtually his entire life peering into the future, and when he wasn’t doing that, dreaming about perfect worlds, wrote, that every time he saw, an adult on a bicycle, he no longer “despaired of the human race”.

H.G. Wells would be happy to find himself in Montreal this spring.

Because seemingly, overnight, for those of us not paying attention anyway, seemingly overnight, like one of those spring flower s nudging its yellow head through a snow bank, Montreal has become the greatest bicycle city in North America.

Okay.

I know, that’s a big statement.

And I have no scientific proof. These things are a matter of opinion. But that is my opinion. And I am prepared to take it a step further. I am prepared to say that Montreal can suddenly be ranked among the great bike cities of the world.

You don’t have to take my word. Last year Time Magazine rated urban bike rides, and ranked the 24 km loop along the Lachine canal and rapids, as the third greatest urban cycle, in the world.

Montreal has gone Bike Crazy.

Probably the biggest thing that happened in Montreal last year, was the arrival of the BIXI bikes. These are the community-owned bicycles that anyone can rent. 24 hours a day. The bikes are locked, unsupervised, at corners around the city. They began last spring with 3,000 bikes at 300 stations. They were so wildly popular they added 2,000 bikes and another 100 stations before the biking season was over. Let me do the math for you. That is a total of 5,000 bikes, at 400 stations.

An annual BIXI membership costs about 70 bucks. And with a membership you have unlimited right to the use of the bikes … anytime you want. Here is how it works. You simply walk up to one of the bike racks, and they are everywhere you look, you swipe your pass, and you pull out a bike. And there is no charge for the first 30 minutes. You can ride anywhere in the city. And you don’t have to bring the bike back to where you got it. You can leave it at any of the other 400 racks around town.

SO you take a bike, drive to lunch, lock it up, and you have finished eating take another bike and drive it home.

If you are a tourist, and tourists love the bikes. It costs you $5 for a 24 hour membership.

The BIXI system was designed, built and developed here in Quebec. They took money from the cities parking revenues and from the major sponsor, the aluminum producer Rio Tinto Alcan … and it is so successful they have already sold the technology and concept to Minneapolis, Melbourne, and London. England. And there are at least another 10 cities around the world who have shown interest. It is a staggering success story.

I could go on and on. The twelve technicians trained to service the bikes were at risk high school students. After a year in the program all 12 have decided to go back to school. Melbourne and Minneapolis are thinking about incorporating using that part of the idea too.

But it’s not only the BIXI bikes that make Montreal so cycle-friendly… there are also the bike lanes and bike paths.

There are 500 kilometers of bike paths and lanes in the city of Montreal. 700 kilometers on Montreal island. The most impressive of them all, I would put forward, is the Claire Morissette bike path. Morissette was a passionate bicycle activist who, along with “Bicycle Bob” Silverman, founded le monde a bicyclette and fought with Montreal City hall for thirty years.

She was once arrested, it is worth pointing out, for painting her own bike lanes on city streets. Well, times change. And sometimes prophets get their due. The idea to name the bike lane in Claire’s honor was endorsed unanimously by Montreal City council. She died just before it opened.

She would have loved it. It the only bike path in North America, that I know of, that goes right through the heart of a major city. That is the point of what is happening here in Montreal. They aren’t just building bike paths where it is easy to build them.

Claire Morissette’s bike path runs along de Maisoneuve avenue … which is a major street … and it runs from one side of the city to the other … an entire lane, reserved for bikes, and set apart from cars by concrete barriers.

And in the mornings, and the afternoons, you can see 10, 20, 25, people on bikes waiting at a stop light … Sometimes, at some corners, it is so c crowded there are bike jams, there are so many bikes that everyone doesn’t make it through the light.

It seems everyone is on a bike in Montreal these days … It is intergenerational, and intercultural , and inter class. There is no sense that the people in the cars represent a ruling class that is being confronted by rebels on their bikes. Everyone is on a bike.

Though. I don’t want to give you the impression that everything is perfect. If its perfection you want, you can go to Holland, where bikes coast up to intersections as if they were choreographed by a Tai Chi Master. In Montreal people scream up to intersections as if they are auditioning for the Cirque de Soleil. And they are driving on sidewalks, and going the wrong way up one way streets. They ride bikes here the way they do everything else, as if they are the offspring of a Swiss clockmaker and Italian mobster. And you watch in horrified wonder, until you spot a guy biking towards you in a helmet … and you think, okay there’s one sensible rider in the lot … and then he rides his helmeted head right through a red light … and as he passes you, you notice he has a cigarette in his mouth.

Listen. I know there are problems. I know this isn’t some perfect bicycle world that H.G. Wells has imagined into existence.

I know to belong to the BIXI program you need a credit card and that excludes a certain part of the population. And I know the bike paths drive people crazy in the winter when snow clearing becomes an issue. And that if you happen to be driving your car along de Maisonneuve, and you want to turn right, you can wait for ever to find a clearing in the stream of cyclists. I know you sit in your cars fuming. But the next time you find yourself sitting there thinking bad thoughts about bikes …. and now, probably, me … remember this … you are a citizen of the best bike city on the continent.

And know this too. When we come here from Toronto, and Vancouver, and even Ottawa, and we look around, and see what you are doing, we find ourselves in danger of committing the mortal sin of envy.

And if your contribution is to sit in your car and smolder … that is a contribution.

Am I guilty of hyperbole? I don’t think so.

I haven’t been able to verify this, but I have been told, by more than one person, that the sale of bikes in Quebec makes up for 40% of the bikes that are sold across Canada.

Things are spinning in wonderful ways here in Montreal. The rest of country would do well to pay attention.

Counters, pumps, repair stations and real cycling infrastructure

Vancouver has just installed some bike repair stations. After the (albeit manufactured) furor around the pumps, and notwithstanding the circuitous funding mechanism this time, these repair stations strike me as an odd public-relations choice, either due to naivete or to an unhelpful devil-may-care confidence.

Counters, pumps and repair stations won’t get more people on bikes. Worse, they may reinforce the tribalism (“Woot! 2000 on the counter! One Less Car! One Less Car!”) and techno-fetishism (“Dude, are those DT-Swiss X470 29ers?”) which undermines normalcy in public perception and the desired mass modal shift. 

Getting more people on bikes is a safety issue and a marketing issue, as the city well knows. The people who don’t cycle today, don’t cycle because they don’t feel safe cycling.

Here is how to make them feel safe.

1. Don’t make armour mandatory.

If the government’s international Country Travel Advice page included the note “armour is legally required at all times” for some country, you could be forgiven for interpreting this as “do not travel”. The same reasoning will apply to adult helmet laws. If this cycling thing is so inherently dangerous as to need armour, why the heck is the government promoting it? (Answer, of course: it’s not actually dangerous.)

2. Put the bikelanes on the sidewalk side of the parked car, not the driver-doorzone-and-moving-cars side.

Because a) all cars have drivers, but not all cars have passengers; and b) the parked cars should protect the people, not the other way around.

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3. Paint (and later build) ‘dutch islands’ at intersections.

Last May, I suggested painting this at Yukon and 10th and was shot down by the City’s engineers. Here’s an explanatory video, and here’s a recent proposal in Christchurch, New Zealand.Dutch-style cycle intersections

4. Implement public bike share

Putting bicycles at the fingertips of the masses is having a tremendous impact on bicycling culture and mode share. As Pete Stidman, director of the Boston Cyclists Union, suggested: “If cycling is some kind of crazy drug that makes us happier, healthier and better-looking, then bike share is the gateway drug.”

Items 1-3 cost less than the pumps and repair stations. Your own advertising bylaws (and, of course, adult helmet choice) determine whether bikeshare needs to cost you anything.

Not anarchists

I hope it is clear that Sit Up Vancouver are not anti-establishment anarchists. We do not advocate for the repeal of all laws, or hold the police force in unreserved disdain.

We are a very specific advocacy group, with a very specific goal. A goal that is also the stated policy of municipalities across BC, and of the province itself: namely more people using bicycles for normal, every-day transport. While adults can be fined for not wearing a helmet while cycling, this will not be a natural transport mode choice for the majority.

Like soldiers, the police have their mandate circumscribed by politicians. Soldiers only go to war when instructed to do so by our elected officials; the police may only uphold laws that our elected officials have passed.

However, unlike soldiers, the police may exercise discretion and judgement in their application of the law. Obviously it is impossible for the police to uphold ubiquitous laws, like the adult bicycle helmet law. They cannot be everywhere at once, and cannot stop everybody. Therefore they exercise judgement. The law is their tool, to be used to help keep the peace.

When we mock VPD for setting up helmet traps, it is the judgement of those officers (or their superiors, if instructed) to choose to uphold this law - among all the others - and on the safest streets in the city.

Helmet traps are safety theatre. They do not make the streets of Vancouver safer. Wearing a good helmet may make an individual safer, but police never check helmet integrity: you could cruise by a trap in a fake.

We would have more difficulty with our claim of malign intent and/or laziness if the officers ever performed bell checks, or helmet integrity checks, or if they set up on dangerous arterials. We have yet to hear of such efforts.

Sit Up Vancouver wholly endorses the use of such accident-preventing safety measures as lights, bells, height, strict compliance with traffic signals, a leisurely pace and the use of dedicated cycling streets and lanes.

We won’t debate helmet laws for children, Idaho stops, failure to indicate, cycling on the sidewalk or hundreds of other daily infringements. Behavioral scofflaws - often helmeted, note - give us careful sit-up cyclists a bad name. VPD officers can go right ahead and uphold that long list of other laws, safe from our mocking tweets.

But ticketing slow, safe commuters on quiet streets is wasteful, counterproductive, backward foolishness, and will always be called out as such.

 


Tireless defender of the BC taxpayer Jordan Bateman has commented that there is no difference between seatbelt spot-checks and adult helmet spot checks. We clearly disagree. Here are a couple of ways in which seatbelt laws differ from adult helmet laws:

  • Cars have engines and travel quickly (>15kph) making them inherently dangerous.
  • Seatbelt laws are nationally and internationally ubiquitous. Adult helmet laws are not. While we shouldn’t unthinkingly copy other jurisdictions, our anomalous law should give pause for thought.
  • Seatbelts hold the driver’s body inside a metal roll cage preventing damage to limbs and spine. Helmets do not.
  • There is no evidence that seatbelt laws discourage driving. There is some evidence - most notably, the abject failure of Melbourne bikeshare - that adult helmet laws do discourage cycling. For doubters, repealing the adult helmet law in BC on a trial basis would allow useful data to be gathered in this respect.

He has also commented that “the law is the law: deal with it”. Unfortunately the adult bicycle helmet law is a major barrier to the good and important municipal and provincial policy goal of more people on bicycles. Therefore we advocate vocally for its amendment, and encourage civil disobedience in this respect. Like any civil disobedience campaign it is important to maintain focus: to respect all other laws, and to provide a clear solution to problems of the status quo.

As well as advising VPD not to ticket users of safe streets, City of Vancouver council could ensure all official photographs of cyclists depict them dressed as pedestrians, and could strongly advocate for amendment to the law, thus:


Amendment to the Bicycle Safety Helmet Regulation

MOVER:  Mayor

SECONDER:  Councillor

WHEREAS

  1. Minister of Justice and Attorney General for British Columbia, Shirley Bond MLA, has jurisdiction over the Motor Vehicle Act;
  2. Section 184 of the Motor Vehicle Act makes it illegal to ride a bicycle without wearing a helmet (“the adult helmet law”);
  3. Adult helmet laws have led to the failure of Public Bike Systems in Australia;
  4. Vancouver wishes to implement a Public Bike System;
  5. Vancouver, and the province, have invested in excellent bicycle infrastructure;
  6. The adult helmet law does not extend to people on foot or in cars, despite the higher number of head injuries each year (and resulting higher healthcare burden) involving these groups;
  7. Accident rates while cycling would be expected to decline as more people, including users of Public Bike Share, choose to cycle (“safety in numbers”);
  8. The province leaves adults the responsibility to manage the risks of smoking, drinking, driving, voting, sexual intercourse and gambling;
  9. The health and climate benefits of transport cycling are recognised and regularly promoted by the province;
  10. The adult helmet law presents a clear barrier to the success of Vancouver Public Bike Share specifically, and to a higher cycling modal share in general.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED

  1. THAT the Mayor, on behalf of the City, write to Minister Bond to request that all adults in Vancouver be exempt from the requirement under section 184 of the Motor Vehicle Act to wear a bicycle safety helmet.

Vancouver already boasts Boris’ best bits

A lot of people tell me I should ease up on the helmet thing, and lay off the City of Vancouver. There are good people there, they say, doing good work. I know this is true and I hope it’s obvious I love being able to cycle around Vancouver so easily on my big sit-up bicycle.

In the spirit of VIA-like optimism, and after Mayor Boris Johnson announced big plans for London, I wanted to highlight some of the great infrastructure he wants, that we already have.

London: “The Westway, the ultimate symbol of how the urban motorway tore up our cities, will become the ultimate symbol of how we are claiming central London for the bike.”

Dunsmuir Viaduct and Burrard bridge bike lanes are exactly this kind of freeway retrofit.

London: The first “quietways” – unbroken cycle routes on quiet streets, imitating lines on the tube network – will appear next year

Vancouver’s greenways along 10th and along Yukon follow our rapid transit routes of the 99 b-line and the Canada Line respectively. While these don’t pass directly by the transit stations, our grid makes the routes perfectly legible. The Grandview Greenway does exactly follow the skytrain route, at least as far as I’ve ever taken it: the problem with that route is the land use choices around the skytrain stations, but that’s a topic for another day.

London: A new segregated East-West Superhighway along the Victoria Embankment

You could compare this waterfront route to our false creek Seawall, connecting the Olympic Village to Yaletown the West End in one direction, and to Kitsilano in the other. Or, in terms of segregated East-West connection, to the Hornby bikelane.

London: Mini-hollands outside the town centre

Many Vancouver neighborhoods are heavily traffic-calmed, not only in the West End, but across the water in Kitsilano and Mount Pleasant. Having grown up nodally organically, London benefits from true complete neighborhoods, whereas Vancouver is attempting to fit a neighborhoods model to a streetcar corridor city. Separated lanes on arterials and safer designs for major intersections would help this greatly.

 


My point is that most of Vancouver’s streets are already safe enough for almost everyone to cycle around. Of course you can’t stroll down the middle of every street, and by no means should the City stop completing and calming streets. But within the City of Vancouver many, many more trips could be made safely by bicycle than actually are. Why that deficit? When asked, people say they feel unsafe. Therefore the city is correct to build separated lanes (although I think they could be done far more quickly and more cheaply with paint and parking: see Chicago for true ambition). But I also don’t think the government mandating armour helps engender a feeling of security. As Mikael says, it’s a marketing problem.

My ranting is born out of frustration at what might be. I get particularly incensed when people like David Hay say we need to keep the adult helmet law until the streets are safe enough. The streets of Vancouver are already safe enough, and they’ll get safer more quickly the more casual “non-cyclists” there are on bikes.

Last week, Boris also announced a 30% increase in bikeshare bikes. Meanwhile, Vancouver’s Transportation Director hopes to get something by the end of the year. Sigh.