Winnipeg, you have a cycling problem.
Wait, hear me out.
I’m a bit of a cyclist. I’m also a bit of a motorist and a transit user. Sometimes I walk. I don’t usually run. I haven’t rollerbladed in 15 years, but I’ve got nothing against it.
My beef is with those who choose to completely ignore the rules of the road while cycling. Those who ride the wrong way down a one way street, who run stop signs and red lights, who don’t signal, who ride on the sidewalk. These are all things that are illegal, yet every single day I see cyclists doing this. You can’t deny this is happening, Winnipeg. What are you doing about it?
Recently, my Uniter colleagues and I were conducting video interviews about mayoral candidates. We started talking about fake policies of fake candidates, and the host of the video came up with the idea to talk about cycling laws. He stated that a fake candidate was proposing to implement a law that would see all cyclists apply for a one-time license, and that it would be mandatory for all cyclists over 18 to wear helmets. Many of them asked “on the street?” Yes, on the street, as cycling on sidewalks is illegal. “But like, outside the neighbourhood?” A residential street is still a street. “Over 18?” Yes, if you are under 18 it is currently illegal to cycle without a helmet.
It was alarming to learn that people who identified as cyclists were a) unaware of local law and b) admitted to not wearing helmets out of laziness/vanity.
Everyone we talked to was anti-bike helmet and anti-bike license. They felt there would be no way to enforce this.
When someone is cycling on a sidewalk, they are ticketed. I would imagine helmet laws could be enforced the same way.
Cyclists might be getting away with breaking the law because there are no consequences laid out for them. Not that consequences work, people still drive their cars under the influence of alcohol while texting, but ticketing cyclists would at least be a deterrent and would easily prevent injury.
Last year, the aforementioned legislation requiring that all people under the age of 18 wear a helmet came into effect. This came after stats from the Winnipeg Health Region noted that there were 14 deaths and 910 hospitalizations from bike-related injuries locally between 2000 and 2010. Eighty per cent of these people were not wearing helmets.
If you are completely exposed to the elements and dozens of vehicles are whizzing past you at 60 km/h, don’t you want to protect your skull?
Australians chose to in 1989, followed by several Canadian provinces throughout the ‘90s (New Brunswick, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island). So watch where you cycle, you might get pulled over and receive a $20 ticket while checking out the scenery in New Brunswick because your noggin is exposed.
Do all cyclists break the rules? Of course not. Should cyclists that share the roads with motorists at least know the rules of the roads they are using? Yup. I doubt any of us remember the Grade 2 training we received in the bus loop from the lunch supervisor. If you learned the rules while you had a Slimer horn, you could use a refresher by age 18.
Nicholas Friesen got his bike at Costco and his helmet at the mall.
Published in Volume 69, Number 9 of The Uniter (October 29, 2014)