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 I helped create 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 helmet. If not, you can do whatever the f you want (assuming you are over 18). 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 waaaaaay 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 crappy road conditions, ice, bad luck, texting and a handful of hostile douchebags, 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 seat belt 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, then to avoid a ticket. Now it's second nature. I for one feel a bit weird when I don't have my seat belt 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.
Muchos gracias to the poster models, Jenna, Olli and Aaron, for helping us spread the word to the fine citizens of our fair province.
Andrea Tetrault is an avid cyclist and author of the Winnipeg CycleChick blog (winnipegcyclechick.com), where she records her meandering misadventures on a bike and explores the intricate nooks and crannies of cycling culture. She discovered cycling "accidentally" during a brief and unfortunate triathlon phase and has been hooked ever since. When she's not on her bike, Andrea and husband Paul are partners at Tétro Design, an award-winning graphic design firm with clients ranging from national theatres to makers of silverware cleaners. Her dream is to land a reality show about a prairie girl exploring the gastronomic pleasures of Europe by bike -- preferably in the company of Gene Simmons. Her two sons, Julien and Rémy, are pretty sure she's nuts.