Councillors move for higher bike safety standards

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This article was published 24/05/2016 (2269 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg cyclists may soon have to be more prepared before hitting the road if an initiative arising from the May 17 session of the East Kildonan-Transcona Community Committee gains any traction at City Hall.

Councillors Russ Wyatt (Transcona) and Jason Schreyer (Elmwood) passed a motion making it mandatory for all cyclists, regardless of age, to wear helmets and to have bells and both front and rear lights on their bicycles. The front lights would be a headlight-style light while the rear ones could either be headlights or reflectors.

Wyatt explained the initiative began with a call from a constituent, concerned with the safety of some active transportation trails. Because such trails are meant for people on foot and those using bicycles, rollerblades and other modes of transportation, there is opportunity for accidents, especially when pedestrians and joggers are unaware of someone rapidly approaching from behind.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Coun. Jason Schreyer

“Multi-use active transportation paths are exactly that — multi-use,” Wyatt said. “So the question becomes how you ensure everyone’s on there and can share it safely.”

Wyatt explained many communities in Europe and other parts of the world have successfully adopted minimum standards. Requiring some type of signal would make the paths safer for everyone, he added. Those same issues occur when cyclists and motorists interact on roadways so it only makes sense to have the same rules in place in those circumstances.

Ian Walker is not convinced. Citing several studies, the co-chair of Bike Winnipeg told the meeting mandatory requirements can reduce cycling trips by between 13 and 40 per cent.

“We have to be proactive,” Walker said. “We should not be doing anything that discourages cycling.”

The extra expense of helmets and lights could force some people to abandon the activity, Walker suggested. Wyatt responded that the costs of helmets and other safety features have come down over the years.

Council can best act by reducing the congestion on the roads and increasing the number of active transportation trails, Walker added.

“The best way to protect cyclists’ lives is by separating cyclists from road traffic,” he said.

Wyatt said recent council budgets have included historic levels of funding for trails designed to do exactly that.

“We’re investing a lot of money into infrastructure for cycling and for all sorts of active transportation,” Wyatt said. “We are try to increase cycling in the city so it is incumbent we also try and increase minimum safety standards.”

It may come down to social engineering, Wyatt said.

“If you get into the habit when operating your bike where you know you need to have a light and you know you have to have a helmet on, it (becomes) a given. Folks get into a car and automatically put their seat belt on. Same thing.

“It is a question of developing those good habits and how do we encourage that?”

Some safety measures already are law. Cyclists under 18 years of age must wear a helmet and all bikes must have a white light in front and a red reflective one on the back, Walker said.

While admitting he always wears a helmet when cycling, Walker questioned how much good mandatory helmets will accomplish.

“If I have a low-speed collision the helmet will protect me from injury,” Walker said. “But research shows it is overstated that helmets save lives.”

An elementary school teacher, Walker described the level of inactivity in many youth as “alarming”. Free bells might prevent any activity decline, he suggested.

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Twitter: @HeraldWPG

Tony Zerucha

Tony Zerucha
East Kildonan community correspondent

Tony Zerucha is a community correspondent for East Kildonan. Email him at tzerucha@gmail.com

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