This column by The Record's Luisa D'Amato may not swing any voters, but it will surely stir the pot in the cycling community, especially her advice to the next premier to make bicycle helmets mandatory for all cyclists in Ontario.
Nothing stirs the blood of cyclists like the matter of bicycle helmets. The opponents are loud and fact-backed. The proponents are insistent and supported by facts, too. And in the middle are people like me who are happy to make the choice to wear bicycle helmets on the basis of what they think of as good common sense.
It's pretty clear that the tides are flowing against the anti-helmet (or rather, pro-choice) group. If you want to ride a Kitchener Community Access Bicycle, you need a helmet. If you want to ride in a charity fundraising event, you need a helmet. The CAA, the police and Ontario's doctors want you to wear a helmet.
Every time I read a police report about an adult involved in a cycling accident, the point is made by the reporting officer that the cyclist "was not wearing a helmet." This fact is reported with the same gravity (and blame for the cyclist) as if that person was a motorist who was not wearing a seat belt. Yet, wearing a seatbelt is a legal requirement, while wearing a helmet, for anyone in Ontario 18 years of age or older, is not.
Odd, isn't it, that in Ontario (stats from the late 1990s, from the Office of the Registrar General) the number two cause of death is lung cancer, at something around 6,500 deaths a year, yet we haven't ordered people to stop smoking. Yet something like 12 to 20 people died in cycling accidents each year, and of those, only a few would have been helped by wearing a helmet, yet the discussion around bicycle helmet laws keep coming back like a bad penny.
Don't get me wrong. My head has bounced off pavement, and I was glad I was wearing a helmet when it happened. But the attention paid to helmets has me puzzled. Where is the pressure coming from?