Manitoba will soon require that minors wear a “properly fitted and fastened” helmet when riding a bicycle.

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Manitoba will soon require that minors wear a "properly fitted and fastened" helmet when riding a bicycle.

Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau introduced legislation this afternoon that would make helmets mandatory for bike riders under the age of 18.

In the event of a crash, bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of death and serious injury by as much as 90 per cent, Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau said.

PERRY MAH / THE CANADIAN PRESS

In the event of a crash, bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of death and serious injury by as much as 90 per cent, Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau said.

In the event of a crash, bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of death and serious injury by as much as 90 per cent, Rondeau said.

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.

"The amendments introduced today are a critical step forward in protecting our children and young cyclists and preventing serious injuries and fatalities," he said.

The new law would also apply to children who are passengers on bikes as well as to those who are being towed by a bicycle.

While those who fail to comply with the helmet law will face fines, Rondeau said the new legislation would allow for alternatives to paying a fine. He said public consultations would be held to develop these alternatives.

Bill 37 would not subject children under the age of 14 to prosecution for failing to wear a helmet.

There will also be some exemptions to the new law, such as on religious grounds.

Larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca