Manitoba’s Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau just introduced some very sensible legislation. Bill 37 would make it illegal for children under the age of 18 to ride a bike (even as a passenger) without a helmet.
If you’re caught without a helmet, you could be fined for up to $50 (or face an alternative punishment to be decided later).
On the whole, though, it makes sense and there’s good reason for requiring it:
From 2005 to 2009, 374 children were hospitalized for cycling-related injuries in Manitoba, according to the province. Fifty-four were hospitalized for cycling-related head injuries.
The province, until now, has resisted calls for a mandatory bike helmet law. The NDP government has instead favoured educational programs that encourage helmet use. It also subsidized the cost of more than 73,000 helmets to Manitoba families through its Low Cost Bike Helmet Initiative.
“Unfortunately, recent studies show that many children and youth are still not wearing helmets,” Rondeau said in a press release today accompanying the legislation.
There’s a case to be made that the new law should also apply to adults (much like seat-belt legislation). And some are complaining the government is pushing itself into an area in which it doesn’t belong (“If I don’t want to wear a helmet, you can’t make me!”)… but there’s another problem with this bill that hasn’t gotten any significant pushback:
There will also be some exemptions to the new law, such as on religious grounds.
What?! Why? What difference does it make what your religion is when it comes to head injury?!
Presumably, this amendment to the bill is meant to accomodate the large local population of Sikhs (who wear turbans). But it still makes no sense. Sikhs are just as likely to crash and injure themselves as everyone else. And a turban won’t break their fall. Neither will god.
There’s no reason to let them off the hook for a law that’s meant to save their lives.
Incidentally — as if it needed to be said — a group called the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute stated that turbans are not an effective substitute for helmets:
One Canadian test lab tested a Sikh turban for impact characteristics, and found that they probably would not provide much impact protection, certainly not enough to approach the performance of a helmet meeting any of the national or international bicycle helmet standards. Turbans may vary according to regional styles, and can differ considerably in size, shape, density and other characteristics, so it would be difficult to design a helmet to fit over or under them. A turban-shaped helmet is probably not a viable option even if it were acceptable to Sikhs, because the traditional Sikh turban is meticulously wound, and it would be difficult for a turban wearer to remove their turban, ride in the helmet, and rewind the turban after the ride. Winding a turban over a helmet would eliminate ventilation and result in a very large headgear, while still requiring that the normal turban be taken off to ride.
It’s possible the law could be passed without religious exemptions and just not be enforced on Sikhs (at least unofficially), but that would just defeat the purpose of the bill. It’s a bad idea, anyway. This law would be for their own good.
(Thanks to Dorothy for the link!)