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“Freedom Ride” will protest Vancouver helmet law

Posted by on March 7th, 2008 at 9:38 am

Roll On Columbia! ride

Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard
modeling proper helmet behavior.
(Photo © J. Maus)

A twelve year-old Vancouver boy has organized a ride to protest the all-ages helmet law that was recently passed by the Vancouver City Council.

The ordinance, which makes helmets mandatory for everyone on a variety of human powered vehicles, was passed by a 5-1 vote. But that wide margin doesn’t seem to reflect how many Vancouverites feel about the law, as evidenced by several of the 155 comments that have been posted so far on my story about the Council’s decision.

One of those comments, by “Dread Pirate Roberts,” caught my eye. It took things one step further and suggested that a protest ride was in order:

“As a cyclist who is only 12 years of age I am still undecided about the helmet ordinance. Although I do believe that there should be some sort of ride in protest of the ordinance. I think this should happen because of what some other people have said.”

“During the ride you do not have to wear a helmet, but you can if you like. That’s what freedom means.”
–Dread Pirate Roberts

Dread Pirate Roberts (who I have contacted to confirm his comment but he wants to remain anonymous for now), then referenced other comments that questioned the merits of the new law as part of his inspiration for the ride.

Roberts said he plans to take participants on a loop around Columbia Street and then back to City Hall, where he will encourage everyone to fill out comment cards that will go to City Council members. Roberts also noted that the day planned for the ride, March 10th, is his birthday and his mom plans to bring birthday treats for everyone who shows up (don’t expect something for everyone, but feel free to bring something to share if you can).

Whether you’re for or against helmet laws, you’ve got to love the moxie of this kid. As he put it, “Come over to the ‘couv and put in your 2 cents worth-or put your spirit where your mouth is.” As for the whether or not to wear a helmet, Roberts says, “during the ride you do not have to wear a helmet, but you can if you like. That’s what freedom means.”

    Last Day of Freedom Ride
    Monday, March 10th
    5:30 by the clock tower in Esther Short Park (downtown Vancouver)

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carlPatrickDr. BenjaminMatt PicioJonathan Maus (Editor) Recent comment authors
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michael downes
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michael downes

Way to go Dread Pirate Roberts! Protest and dissent is the life blood of democracy. It remains to be seen how responsive the Vancouver city council will be. If I can make it Littleman and I will definitely be making a trip over the river to participate.

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

Good work, Roberts! Keep it up. The world needs more people like you.

And Jonathan, did you really just write \”You\’ve got to love the moxie of this kid,\”? You\’re awesome. 🙂

Carl
Guest
Carl

We\’ve got a live one on our hands! Way to go, kid! Lead a Pedalpalooza Vancouver Kids Ride…please!

http://www.shift2bikes.org/cal/calform.php?form=pp

A protest ride is a great opportunity to make it clear that wearing a helmet might be a good idea…but it shouldn\’t be required by law. In other words: don\’t hesitate to wear helmets on this protest ride. Just carry some big signs to make your point.
\”Anti-law not anti-helmet\”
\”Police have better things to do\”
\”Helmet laws don\’t work.\”
\”I demand a helmet law for motorists.\”
I don\’t know. You\’ve probably got better ideas.

What\’s the goal here? Is there any chance of getting this decision reversed at this point?

Great work. I think this is likely to be the biggest birthday party you\’ll ever have.

vox populi
Guest
vox populi

Wearing a helmet to a helmet-law protest! Good one, Carl.

MattD
Guest
MattD

I wonder how many riders will show up wearing helmets.. 🙂

Agent lekker
Guest
Agent lekker

Remember as the Dread Pirate Roberts said as he was blogging earlier \”… during the ride you do not have to wear a helmet but you can if you like. Thats what freedom means.\”

I will be there Dread Pirate.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

thanks Agent lekker for reminding me about that bit of what he wrote… I\’ve now worked it into the original story. cheers.

Elly Blue (Columnist)
Member

I\’ll be there. Bravo, sir Pirate!

Matt Picio
Guest

I am definitely there

RW
Guest
RW

While we\’re at it, let\’s repeal the motorcycle helmet law! GO KID!

saraiderin
Guest
saraiderin

While I admire the kid for standing up to what he feels is unfair, I would not want to be his mother if he were to ever suffer a head injury while riding with no helmet.

Cøyøte
Guest
Cøyøte

Does this mean that Royce Pollard has six fingers? I will not be in town but if I were, I would ride.

Carl
Guest
Carl

saraiderin,
Being pro-choice doesn\’t necessarily mean you love having frequent abortions. Likewise, protesting this law doesn\’t mean you hate wearing helmets.

This law eliminates a personal choice and it negatively impacts the safety of bicycling.

I\’m not too concerned about his mother. I hope to meet her on Monday.

John Russell
Guest

Saraiderin, the point is that we should should be allowed the freedom to make such a decision.

Anyway, I was looking forward to something like this, and now it looks like I won\’t be alone. Props to you, Roberts.

Also, by my calculations, the twenty-fifth of the month will be the last day to do anything important in Vancouver without wearing a helmet. Might we plan yet another great ride to protest the law on such a date?

Dread Pirate Roberts
Guest
Dread Pirate Roberts

This ride is all about the elimanation of choice. First make a law that would make the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists. More pedestrians are killed than cyclists each year with amazing numbers of 4,784 pedestrians killed and only 773 cyclists in 2006. Why aren\’t they wearing helmets (I am doing a research paper…ugh).
I think that instead of limiting our freedom as cyclists, they should first make it more enjoyable to ride on the street.
Also here\’s the link to the statistics.

http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx

P.S.
saraiderin #11,
My mother lets me walk to school without a helmet! Its much more dangerous :-0

Dread Pirate Roberts
Guest
Dread Pirate Roberts

John Russell #14,
As for the 25th, I\’d love to but my mother is taking me to the netherlands!!!!!!!
:):):):)

Timbo
Guest
Timbo

If there is freedom not to wear a helmet then I\’d like the freedom to not have my insurance or taxes increased to pay for the non-insureds care when they are in the hospital with a head injury.

Joe
Guest
Joe

great work! let freedom ring 🙂

Dread Pirate Roberts
Guest
Dread Pirate Roberts

It looks to me like the pedestrians are more of a problem.

John Russell
Guest

Dread Pirate Roberts, you are a lucky guy. What a great place to go when we\’re discussing the merits of a helmet law. Just look at how great they\’ve got it over there.

Don\’t forget a bike when you go!

ChipSeal
Guest
ChipSeal

Tailwinds to you, Dread Pirate Roberts!

Cøyøte
Guest
Cøyøte

Timbo #17, your statement is Limbaugh like in its simpleton logic and deference to propaganda. Please download the City of Vancouver budget and find the line item where the city contributes to the free medical care for ANYONE regardless of the reason. Then take that awesome figure, and divide it by the number of tax payers that contribute to the city of Vancouver. Go on be a citizen, the 2007-2008 budget is only 556 pages. I\’ve done it, do you have cajones?

Not biting? Then how about a logic puzzle. If I quit my job, loose my insurance, get really effing high and then proceed to whack myself in the head with a hammer until I am a drooling idiot, what will it do your next year\’s taxes or insurance?

What if I knock-up my fifteen year old girlfriend and then skip town? What does that mean to the City budget?

When you can answer those questions for yourself, then I would be very interested in hearing how much indigent and helmetless cyclists cost you in the City of Vancouver.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

Timbo please

joel
Guest

oh timbo. sheesh. as if helmetless riders had a monopoly on, crashing, getting hit, being uninsured, or getting injured beyond what their insurance will pay. that argument is TIRED. get a new one. but on to more important things!

dread pirate roberts, i think what youre doing is AWESOME. \”I think that instead of limiting our freedom as cyclists, they should first make it more enjoyable to ride on the street.\” amen to that! ill be there in spirit, as i cannot be there in the flesh.

Opus the Poet
Guest

I can\’t be there but I support the Dread Pirate Roberts in this protest against oppression… (NO I\’m not trying to be funny)

Opus

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

I\’m with the minority on this one – just like I think seat belts should be mandatory and talking on the cell phone while driving (or biking!) should be prohibited, so, too, I think helmets should be required.

Aaaarrrrgggghhh
Guest
Aaaarrrrgggghhh

With freedom comes responsibility, and that means wearing basic safety gear. Automobile drivers must buckle up. Cyclists should wear helmets. This cultural nonsense that it\’s an ok thing to go helmetless is simply juvenile. It\’s not about freedom, it\’s about being as irresponsible as possible with no good end.

I\’m amazed to read this board. Shocked, and amazed. And it makes me glad I no longer work in the trauma unit.

Aaaarrrrgggghhh
Guest
Aaaarrrrgggghhh

Timbo… You hit the mark. Too bad some forget that responsibility comes with freedom. Alas, a lot of people on this board have forgotten that.

Dread Pirate Roberts
Guest
Dread Pirate Roberts

Thank you for thinking even though you can\’t be here. 🙂

Dread Pirate Roberts
Guest
Dread Pirate Roberts

sorry \”There\” on my last post.

Aaaarrrrgggghhh
Guest
Aaaarrrrgggghhh

Uh, Dread, you might want to compare the numbers of pedestrians to the numbers of cyclists, as well as take the type of injury into consideration.

You\’re not making a valid comparison as is.

bikeprez
Guest
bikeprez

While we\’re at it, why don\’t we rescind the motorcycle helmet laws, the seat belt laws, the OSHA requirements for hard hats on construction sites, speed limits & all the other laws on the books that limit personal choices.

Come on, you putzes! We need some laws that protect us from ourselves. And this is one of them. And, it\’s not only the cyclist that is protected. It\’s the families, friends and co-workers, and society as a whole. Anyone who thinks that only the cyclist is affected by a death or debilitating head injury hasn\’t lost a loved one unnecessarily to such an occurance. For once, think out of your own little personal box, and look to the greater good.

Todd Boulanger
Guest

On a related note…organizing for change…

…BTA is interested again in working with Vancouver to organize in Vancouver a chapter (or similar interest section).

There will be an initial meeting on this topic later next week (date yet to be set) in the City Center. Send an email to me if you wish to be kept in the loop on this.

Todd Boulanger
Senior Transportation Planner
City of Vancouver
todd.boulanger@ci.vancouver.wa.us

JollyOldMan
Guest
JollyOldMan

Throw away the helmets, forget about license and insurance and any and all responsibilities lets just go out and ride and whatever happens happens someone will sort it out in the end. Somebody will pay.

hickeymad
Guest
hickeymad

Dread Pirate Roberts: Way to go!
I\’m trying to figure a way to get up there for the ride from downtown PDX after work…

Last weekend I rode up to Vancouver to see what the city has to offer cyclists. I was impressed at the amount of open space (around vancouver lake) and by a few of the greenways. However this was nearly negated by the lack of signage on the trails and the difficulty trying to connect the greenways to get from point A to B. Roads without bike lanes were downright scary, as was the number of yahoos who purposely made much of the ride feel unsafe (you know the type of motorist that purposely swerves, gun their engines, honk when passing and yell things like \”use the sidewalk\”). Overall I thought that the city had potential given their natural resources, but has a long way to go to make cycling a real transportation alternative.

I support the Pirate Roberts and his efforts!

dennytron
Guest
dennytron

Ever since Hobbes and T Paine it has been accepted that government itself is in direct opposition to personal freedom. Essentially every law that is passed means a little less individual autonomy but the rationale is that is the price we pay to stave off anarchy.
I find it a sad world where it might be believed that government exists to \”protect us from ourselves\”. In that case why be mediocre about it? Lets fine all those who do not brush and floss daily, who eat an unhealthy diet and who fail to exercise regularly since their untimely degredation and death will certainly shake society to its core. I would resent my loved ones completely if they expected me to curb activities that were perceived as being more risky than watching television just so they could calm their frail sensibilities.
Something that I believe our society needs to (re)learn is that reward must necessarily come with risk. Climb Annapurna and you will likely die. Ride without a helmet and you will likely have head trauma in an accident. However, a world without that choice is a world of only faux color and faux emotions where all meaning has been prescribed within a set range determined by a faceless government.
Just because you should do something does not mean it should be government legislated.

Vance
Guest

You forgot one dennytron #36:

\”Give me liberty, or give me death.\”

Patrick Henry, if memory serves.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

\”I\’m with the minority on this one – just like I think seat belts should be mandatory and talking on the cell phone while driving (or biking!) should be prohibited, so, too, I think helmets should be required.\” Jonathan

Jonathan, at least amongst the members of the Vancouver City Council, you\’re with the majority that thinks helmets should be required. I\’d say that it\’s the \’unthinking majority\’.

This stands to be a broad sweeping law. Everybody, children(who should be required to wear them) and adults (all things considered….they should still be able to decide for themselves at this point) will have to wear a bike helmet whether they\’re riding downtown in traffic or alongside the waterfront, taking in the view.

This law will give the police free reign to meddle in you business should you happen to not be wearing your helmet while astride your bike. Homeless people without the funds or means to keep track of a bike helmet can expect one more excuse on the part of the police to harass them.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

\”This law eliminates a personal choice and it negatively impacts the safety of bicycling.\”

What!? First off, the kid is 12, he has 4 more years until he would even have a choice to wear a helmet or not!

And second, I realize that it is a choice to not wear a helmet, a tempting one, but what you don\’t have a choice about is that idiot driver who comes just a little to close to you or that other cyclist who just wasn\’t looking where they were going, and if that happens, then the medic who has to try and revive you and your family who has to take care of you when you are paralyzed…thats not your choice!

John Russell
Guest

Wsbob #38, your comments on requiring only minors to wear helmets is exactly what the original ordinance was going to have been. It\’s also exactly how it should have been left. If the ordinance was passed as such, I don\’t think many people would have much of a problem with it. Even as a minor, I would be perfectly fine knowing that in a year or two, I would no longer be absolutely required to wear a helmet.

That is where freedom of choice comes in. Everyone knows that kids don\’t have the decision making abilities of adults, plain and simple. That\’s why it would be perfectly fine to require helmet use amongst that group. Once you extend the idea to adults, however, you are limiting the freedoms of perfectly rational citizens.

In addition to limiting the civil liberties of these adults, you also make cycling less safe as a result. I explained this in detain to my letter to the Mayor, but to put it simply: less people ride when forced to wear a helmet, and a result, drivers become less accustomed to cyclists on the roads and it becomes more dangerous. Just look at the Netherlands (where Roberts is lucky enough to be going in a few weeks). They\’ve got nearly 40% mode share of cyclists, and very few wear helmets. With a critical mass like that, it\’s perfectly safe to do so.

More or less, the law is simply poorly thought out. You don\’t build and interstate highway without carefully considering all of the resulting effects. Why would you pass any law without doing the same?

Mike
Guest
Mike

This kid should get some kind of award. I wonder if the couv\’s mayor or police plan to do anything during the event?

John
Guest
John

If requiring helmets will make some people not ride their bike, then I don\’t think they should be riding their bike anyway, becuase I bet they won\’t use lights at night, signal when turning, follow basic rules of the road either.

How in the world will wearing helmets make cyclist anymore at danger?!

stop fussing over helmet hair and realize that helmet hair is SEXY!!

beth h
Guest

Props to Mister Roberts for his spunk and determination.

Requiring someone to wear a bike helmet without doing anything meaningful to make the roads safer for bicyclists is a cheap way of absolving government (and by extension, the car-centric society) of any responsibility for bicycle-riding citizens.

Although I choose to wear a helmet, and would make my kids wear helmets if I were a parent, as long as the government is so lopsided in their support of car culture then it ought to be my choice.

When the government decides to do something meaningful for bicyclists\’ safety on the roads, I\’ll take the government a little more seriously.

Meanwhile, I\’ll be avoiding Vancouver. And so will my wallet, which should have been a bigger consideration if the city is trying to promote tourism, livability and overall growth. Sorry Vancouver, but this law\’s a complete boner.

Mark
Guest
Mark

i can\’t understand how all of you reasonable, nice, thoughtful people could do anything that could provide a sign to our youth that riding without a helmet is a good idea

maybe, i am just a little too close to this issue having spent 48-hours sitting next to a loved one in a hospitable bed after a bike crash (this crash did not even involve a motor vehicle) — my partner couldn\’t remember who she was…

If you want to fight the government there are many other issues that actually need to be fixed

The combination of education, good laws, and enforcement, have saved thousands of lives. Just look at how effective seat belt laws have been in reducing deaths in drivers.

diykate
Guest
diykate

With all the intelligent people posting various views on this topic, I feel like I should be more conflicted. However, I am not. I think the hardest part about living in a free country is trying to understand those that don\’t share your viewpoint.

I don\’t leave the house without a helmet. I don\’t trust MYSELF not to swerve and fall off my bike and hit my head, much less trusting others not to hit me. I cringe when I see helmeted children riding with their unhelmeted parents. I am with Mark, John, the trauma nurses, and my friend who is permanently brain damaged. In my mind, there is no room for argument.

That being said, I realize that anyone can argue anything they please, and that\’s a wonderful thing. I admire Dread Pirate Roberts\’s moxie, but personally wish it were directed towards a different cause that might more concretely help others. But if that\’s your passion, there\’s little I can do.

Opus the Poet
Guest

I should say I was almost killed on my bike over 6 years ago. I was wearing a helmet then that saved my life at least 3 and maybe 4 times. I think everyone should wear a helmet, but I also think that the government has no business requiring adults wearing helmets, on bicycles or motorcycles or driving cars (I also wore a helmet when I raced cars). Is the government going to pay my insurance premuim for me as well?

Opus

beefa
Guest
beefa

You in the minority seem to be looking for any rational to control the behavior of others.Your arguments for this law are ringing hollow (and I think you all know it). My guess is this need to control extends beyond helmets. Enjoy your vannila ice cream.

Dennytron is my new hero.

Dabby
Guest

I am also for people wearing helmets. In fact, if they could actually show that helmets have increased safety to Vancouver cyclist, I would fully back this ordinance change.

But I am not for a City making the decision to require helmets for cyclists, based on the fact that they are worried about liability, and due to concerns that city council members have had after they have personally hit cyclist, due to the drivers not paying attention, as was stated.

They have fully said that it is a liability issue, which makes it wrong.

It should also make it easier to overturn.

We cannot let these people make decisions that affect our cycling, simply because they are afraid of financial repercussions.

Atbman
Guest
Atbman

The assumption seems to be that helmet wearing will lead to a reduction in major head injuries and save lives.

If the research carried out by Dr. Mayer Hillman in the UK is correct, it will make very little difference. He studied a large number of head injury fatalities and discovered that close to 92% of the riders would have died from other injuries, only more slowly, since they also were fatal.

I always wear one, but mainly to reduce the impact should I crash. However, I would expect such a crash to not involve a motor vehicle. If I\’m hit at speeds in excess of 30mph, a piece of polyurethane/polystyrene foam will have very little impact (sic) on the result. If it does reduce what would have been a fatal injury, I may, under those circumstances, become a vegetable.

As for children, I agree that helmets play their part in injury reduction, since they suffer, predominantly, from low speed \”drop\” injuries, caused by their lesser skill levels.

That said, in nearly 10 years of running a kids bike club, we have had only 3 head injuries, in spite of having had in the region of 1000 kids thro\’ the \”doors\” and hundreds racing on tarmac, grass, mtb course, hard and grass track. They always wear helmets, but these don\’t seem to reduce the skinned knees, hips and elbows which are the overwhelming majority of injuries.

Another UK stat: about 60% of all head injuries in UK A&E depts., spring from alcohol. If you are going to a bar or a party, please don\’t fogrget to wear you helmet.

Aaaarrrrgggghhh
Guest
Aaaarrrrgggghhh

Atbman, The problem is that the research you cite is only one study among many, and that study has many problems. It cannot be generalized to another society, for example. Further, any study that suggests that cyclists basically make themselves look dangerous in order to \”promote safety\” ought to cause us all to think.