[Updated: 2/26, 11:37 am – I’ve added audio from the Councilmembers’ testimony (see below).]
(Photos © J. Maus)
Thirty days from now, it will be illegal for anyone to ride a bicycle in Vancouver without a helmet. Last night, after emotional testimony in favor of the law by Mayor Royce Pollard and other councilmembers, an all-ages helmet ordinance passed by a vote of 5 to 1.
“Statistics be damned…I support this.”
–Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard in support of the helmet law.
The sole councilmember opposing the law was Pat Campbell, who said such a law would be “totally unnecessary” and that “what we have now is working.”
Campbell’s opposition to the law was echoed by the public testimony that was heard. Four citizens showed up to speak in opposition to the law, while one was in favor.
But given the emotional positions of a majority of Councilmembers, including Mayor Royce Pollard, it seems no amount of opposition could have derailed this from passing.
Mayor Pollard said that Vancouver used to not need a helmet law, but that the “this is a much larger city now.” He added that, “If we can save one child because of this ordinance, or if we can save adult by this ordinance, than the statistics be damned. I support this.”
Pollard, with his own helmet in front of him as a prop, recounted a bad fall he took while riding in Esther Short Park. He told the crowd how he bruised his hip and scraped his shoulder; but because he was wearing his helmet his head was fine.
He concluded his testimony by saying that, “We will do everything we can to see that every child who can’t afford a helmet will get a helmet, the rest of you are on your own.”
Councilmember Jeanne Harris also had a personal story to share; she hit a man on a bike when she was 21 while pulling out of a fast food restaurant. But, because he was wearing a helmet, “He walked away from it.” She recalled, “I can’t tell you how it affected me that I could have hurt somebody…You can’t plan not to have an accident and that is what this is about. I don’t know if it’s going to help, but I don’t think it can hurt. It’s the responsible thing for the city to do.”
Councilmember Pat Jollota also told of a “life-changing experience” she had that helped form her opinion on this issue: A visit to a brain injury ward. Her justification for supporting the law is that brain injuries lead to a financial burden on the state. “It’s not that I have the right to go out without a helmet and if I hurt myself it’s my problem, it’s not, it’s society’s problem, because we’re the ones that have to take care of you when it’s over with. It’s not you that you have to worry about, it’s everyone else who has to worry about you.”
A similar sentiment was shared by Councilmembers Larry Smith and Tim Leavitt.
Smith said for him, it comes down to his personal principals and values. “It comes back to who I am, and my value systems and what I believe in…The most important thing I do, is provide safety for the community. If I can save a life or an injury, how much does that cost…to a family?”
He added, “This is the right thing to do, I believe and support helmets for all ages. Why not?”
–Download the official ordinance here (PDF).
Here are audio clips of the testimony given by each member of the City Council:
Mayor Royce Pollard