Province's new mandatory pedestrian helmet law takes effect tomorrow

April 2, 2012 is going to be watershed for Vancouver’s pedestrians as the new Pedestrian Helmet Law takes effect Monday. Designed to keep pedestrians safe, this new provincial legislation means that if you plan to walk on city streets, you’ll need to be wearing one of the province-approved pedestrian safety helmets (PSHs), or risk a fine.

The Provincial Motor Vehicle Act (132-b) states,

1.     A person commits an offence if that person walks on a sidewalk or a roadway or a highway and is not properly wearing a pedestrian safety helmet that

a.      is designated as an approved pedestrian safety helmet under subsection (4) (a), or

b.     meets the standards and specifications prescribed under subsection (4) (b).

Fools walk in where angels fear to tread appears to be the view taken by the provincial legislators, who voted anonymously on this sweeping new amendment to the Provincial Motor Vehicle Act. According to policy consultant, Daphne Manners, "rigorous research of injuries to persons walking without protective head gear shows that pedestrians are more at risk than cyclists" (based on injuries per distance travelled). In an interview with Vancouver Observer, she states that "solid research is behind the province's new mandate requiring pedestrians also wear helmets".

Naturally, this new law has its detractors, not all of whom are marginalized liberals, socialists, and other indigents. For example, Renee Sarich of Axis Hair Salon on West Georgia is alarmed that mandatory helmets will put a crimp to their business interests.

"We smack people for putting on hats just after having their hair done. What will it be like with helmets?" she asks. "Talk about helmet hair!"

While it is widely believed that mandatory helmet laws send the unintended signal that walking is unsafe, policy makers believe that people will be safer from accidents, such as being hit by automobiles, colliding with each other, and of course, being the unintended (or not) targets of birds. Even so, one Alberta study appears to show a reduction in sidewalk activity after similar helmet legislation took effect there. This was true even after municipal governments built expensive (and controversial) “pedestrian lanes” to encourage walking.

Everyone who fails to wear appropriate safety head gear starting tomorrow will get warnings followed by citations that can run as high as $100 per infraction.

From the Motor Vehicle Act,

3.     A person who is convicted of an offence under subsection (1) or (2) is liable to a fine of not more than $100.

Remember: Starting April 2, if you’re using a sidewalk, buckle up and wear your helmet.

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