Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 11th, 2008 at 9:58 am
A smiling group of cyclists that included several kids and families showed up at Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver last night for the “Freedom Ride” to protest the recently passed all-ages helmet law.
The ride was organized by 13 year-old Vancouver resident Stuart Jackson. Jackson — who prefers to go by Dread Pirate Roberts, a name he got from a character in the movie The Princess Bride — organized the ride because he believes the new law eliminates choice and that government should instead focus on laws that make the roads safer in general.
“I think that instead of limiting our freedom as cyclists,” he said, “they should first make it more enjoyable to ride on the street.”
As we gathered under warm, rainy skies Jackson informed us that Vancouver City Council had canceled their regularly scheduled Monday night meeting. Through an unabashed grin, he said, “I think they raised the white flag in surrender.”
After passing out pirate jewelry and candy, Jackson mounted his yellow Schwinn Breeze three-speed (leaving his matching yellow helmet in the front basket), and led us on a short ride up Columbia Blvd. and then back down to City Hall.
About half the riders didn’t wear helmets; but this ride wasn’t anti helmet, it was anti helmet law. Most of the riders I spoke to have no problems with wearing a helmet, they simply feel a law mandating its use for adults is simply unnecessary.
As we gathered in front of City Hall, Jackson held up citizen comment cards and gave us a brief lesson on how to speak in front of City Council. One woman on the ride reminded us that five of Vancouver’s council members (including Mayor Royce Pollard) are up for election soon.
Another Vancouver resident on the ride, high school sophomore John Russell from Fisher’s Landing, left a letter he had drafted in opposition to the helmet law in the night deposit box.
After the rally at City Hall, Jackson led us up Main Street to an ice-cream parlor where we all helped celebrate his 13th birthday amid whipped cream, chocolate sundaes, and a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to You”.
So what’s next for this 13 year-old rabble-rouser? Later this summer he’s planning a tricycle race during PedalPalooza, and next weeks he’s off to the bike nirvana of Amsterdam for a family vacation, where he says the best part is, “I don’t even have to bring my helmet.”
See a few more shots from the ride in the photo gallery.