30 April 2010

Mexico City Repeals Bike Helmet Law

Reforma Sunday Family Crowd
When it rains, it pours. A little while ago I blogged about how there appears to be a growing resistance against bike helmet laws around the world. Then I got word from my network of a couple more developments.

Mexico City repealed their bike helmet law back in February 2010.

Let's face it, it wasn't much of a law since there was little enforcement and it was, essentially, unenforceable. Back in 2008 there was a bicycle count including over 26,000 cyclists and 93% of them didn't feel the need to wear a helmet.

The main reason for the push to repeal the helmet law was the upcoming implementation of the city's bike share system, Ecobici.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy [ITDP] were instrumental in getting the law repealed but there was also support from within the city government.

Back in December I blogged about how the helmet law in Israel was up for repeal, as well. From what I've heard the lobbying was successful and adults are no longer forced to wear helmets. Any more info on this is appreciated.

Basically, the helmet law in both places stood in the way of bike sharing programmes that would serve to encourage more people to cycle. Programmes which have been successful in achieving this goal in Paris and Lyon and 24 other French cities, as well as Barcelona and Seville and other Catalonian/Spanish cities and many places around the world.

The Australian Helmet Hurdle regarding bike share programmes is well-known. Nevertheless, there are still crazy ideas floating around in that country like making cheap helmets available at corner shops so that if you spontaneously want to grab a public bike for a short trip somewhere, you'll have to first piss all over that spontaneity and go into a shop to buy a cheap helmet.

In short... Got a helmet law? Don't bother with bike share programmes until you repeal it.

Reforma Sunday Quatro Amigas


Ryan said...

I've maintained British Columbia's helmet law is whats preventing Vancouver or Victoria from a bike share program.

I currently live in Southern Ontario and have considered moving to BC many times, however I just can't fathom the idea of being forced to wear a helmet. And the people and politicians there don't seem to mind the helmet law, so it doesn't look like things will change.

Many Toronto mayoral candidates have not only thrown around the idea of licensing and insuring cyclists, but to add a helmet law for cyclists in that city.

In the past Ontario Provincial election (3 years ago), the Provincial Conservative leader was going to put in a province wide, all ages helmet law. Fortunately he lost.

In the city that I live in, I'd estimated around 70% of the people riding do NOT wear helmets.
Of those that DO wear them, nearly all are children or those on race bikes decked out in lycra.

Richard Campbell said...

Actually, the lack of funding is the first obstacle we need to overcome. The next is the helmet law. Then there are the hills. I am pretty much convinced electric bikes are needed in Vancouver or a fortune will be spent trucking the bikes up hill.

The whole fun of cycling up hill is cycling downhill afterwards. Who wants to cycle up a hill so someone else can cycle down.

Mikael said...

the hills are not a problem. never have been in the history of cycling.

bike share systems are for short trips. around downtown, where the 'hills' are no greater than they are in Barcelona, for example, or many other cities.

short trips around downtown, over to Kitsilano, etc. Perfect for Vancouver. Short trips from Lonsdale Quay up the hill to wherever you need to go.


don't make hills a problem for everyone else when they're only a problem for you. homo sapiens have managed for 130 years without Lazy Bikes/ebikes - they'll manage for another 130.

Green Idea Factory said...

Please name a hilly city of over one million population - or in a conglomeration of over one million - with a bike modal share of over 10%.

The hilliest province of the Netherlands, Limburg, has a cycling mode share of about 20%, about half the rate or less of Amsterdam.

There is also a town in Denmark well-known for hilliness and I think low bike modal share.

I am happy to have my comments deconstructed and downpressed.

Anonymous said...

Programs,laws and infrastructure not perfect for every location or municipality. I personally don't see the need for a Bike Share in Vancouver.

Canadians need to stop looking over the fence to Europe or the US and wondering "how wonderful it would be if we could only be like them". The grass isn't greener on the other side...it is just different and they have challenges that we don't.

Bike Share might work in northern Europe as it is really flat and humans (especially western) are lazy and wouldn't choose to get sweaty until they understand the depth of the benefits.

Helmet laws are a ridiculous way to encourage people to be mindful of their health. If Canadians were more conscientious then it wouldn't be necessary. If your hair style is more important than your memory, vision, personality and other brain injury affectations then stay in Ontario where you can ride free.

I have explored Barcelona by human power and I personally don't think that it is nearly as hilly as Vancouver....Unless you are considering Tibi Dabo as the whole city.

Ian said...

"If your hair style is more important than your memory, vision, personality and other brain injury affectations then stay in Ontario where you can ride free."

Your assumption, that helmets prevent brain injuries, is incorrect.

NickO said...

I live in Melbourne - we've got a compulsory helmet law and we're getting a bike share program ... it starts at some stage during May.

A share bike is about being spontaneous, not about planning.

I'd love the share program to work, but NOBODY is going to keep a spare helmet at the office in case they decide to jump on a bike at lunchtime, and I can't see too many people buying "cheap disposable" helmets at the nearest convenience store.

I also think there are some issues with the way people move around our inner city - we don't have the density of a European city. But these are minor compared to the helmet issue.

My bet: The City of Melbourne will pay for the share bike program for 12 months, maybe 18, then shake their heads and say "we don't know why no one used it" and that will be the end of that.

Rose Green said...

Here in Australia, the bike helmet law will never be repealed. Safety is the new state religion in this joint, and anyone who argues for personal choice ahead of compulsion is shouted down as "irresponsible" and vilified for "undermining the safety message".

Not only will the helmet law never be repealed, but here in Victoria it has surreptitiously been tightened, by roping in scooters.

And I don't mean motor scooters. I mean the two-wheel, human-powered kind that little kids ride. These vehicles are (literally) 2 inches off the ground, and they travel at slower than running speed, and it is now an OFFENCE to ride one without a helmet. The police even came to our local primary school and said that they will be watching the playground to check for children breaking the law. Yes - the bloody playground!

Stuart Lynne said...

Living out here in beautiful BC... I wear a helmet whenever I bike, but then I'm one of the competive bike riding set...

If you are commuting or training or spending any amount of time on roads with >50km/h limit probably you should wear a helmet.

If you are a tourist riding around a park probably not so much. Riding around a quiet neighborhood at low speeds, again probably not. Risk of injury not that much higher than walking on the sidewalk.

And it seems obvious that bike-share programs will be less successful if you need to drag your helmet along with you just in case.

Ryan said...

"If your hair style is more important than your memory, vision, personality and other brain injury affectations then stay in Ontario where you can ride free."
Actually, as someone who keeps his hair really short, nothing affects my "hair style".

And please tell all of that to the women in Burlington, Ontario, who just a few days ago died after crashing her bike.
She suffered a serious brain injury and then later died in hospital...Of course the media has been pretty hush-hush on the fact that she WAS wearing a helmet.

The Canadian media and pro-helmet groups have made bicycling appear to be one of the most dangerous things anyone can do.

As for Vancouver having too many hills? Why are Portland, Seattle, San Francisco (and yes, Vancouver) all considered the top cities in North America to ride a bike and usually have some of the highest bicycle usage in NA.

Montréal has some pretty rough hills in areas, yet BIXI has proving to be one of the most successful bike sharing programs in the world.

Sue 'sans' helmet said...

Mandatory helmet laws will be history in Australia soon(ish) - contradictory, fragmented and largely unenforceable, they are in their death throes!

Bike share will take off here, and whilst the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, will make sure it does not succeed in Melbourne, not every city will give their tender to a car club - somewhere, somebody will give it to a group or an organisation who wants to see it work.

lagatta à montréal said...

¡Que viva Mexico! I'm so glad to see that and imagining that huge city emerging from its shroud of toxic smoke.

And I see the anonymous helmet pusher has already decreed Québec's independence, as he wilfully ignores Montréal's very successful Bixi bicycle-share scheme. And practically NO bixi users wear helmets.

Funny how the helmet freaks always think we are vain about our hair and ignore the fact that helmets, if worn properly, almost strangle us under out chins...

Returning from the annual May Day march, which concluded in the old southwestern industrial district of Pointe-St-Charles, I rode up at least two considerable hills. I'm in my 50s and no athlete.

But Mikael, I do think bicycles with an electric assist can be useful for people with certain cardiac conditions, joint injuries and handicaps. Just so it is an assist - alas I see most e-bike users swooshing past on the flat without pedalling...

Ryan, alas there are huge reactionary anti-cycling forces in Toronto. I'd love to uncover who is sponsoring them. Either car and petroleum interests or a particularly reactionary type of small businessperson - who fails to realize that a cyclable city can actually be a boon to local business.

Avery said...

Ryan said that the Conservative leader (John Tory) in the Province of Ontario was going to put in a province wide, all ages helmet law.

Really? I could find no record of this on the Internet and it never got mentioned in that election campaign.

Ontario's socialists had legislated an all ages helmet law in 1993 but when the Conservatives came to power they gutted it by exempting adults. The law is not enforced against kids.

Only Liberals since then have tried to get an adult helmet law.

pegamento said...

Barcelona and Seville are both Spanish cities :)

I heard in June Velocity2010 will be in Copenhague, the president of Acontramano "federation of ciclists in seville" will be there in cph to see the velocity and the mayor of Seville too to open the velocity cause next year velocity will be in Seville.

We never had a helmet laws in Spain, neither in the 2.500 Bikes sharing in Seville. nobody use it (just babies and athletes). the big problem are the cars, they think we are obligated to use bike lanes, is the law, but the real problem are cars... just cars.

Anonymous said...

Drivers need to be penalized more harshly for their at-fault crashes with cyclists!

Maybe the share bikes could have 3 to 6 internal gears on the back hub to make the hills no problem? I once had a 6 speed ladies steel 60lb supercycle, and its lowest gear ate even steep hills while I was an unfit novice. Maps of low incline routes would help too. Vancouver is hillier than Toronto, but it isn't that bad, really. Lonsdale between the Quay and 16th is a disaster though, more of a ski hill.

If the helmet law is changed for adult cyclists here in Van that would be fine with me. They don't work very well in big crashes, and if cyclists are more drawn to cycling without them and feel more like looking out for number one without them, it will benefit cycling.

Many people ride casually and are less exposed to the evening crash risks of daily commuter cycling distance, so why worry them about helmets if for instance they will be on the seawall? Let commuters decide for themselves too.

The damn things (helmets) did help protect me a little from injury at lower speed. As a commuter cyclist with 2 big car-bike crashes under my belt in thousands of hours and Km of cycling, I'm not found without one because I've 'bounced' my head on pavement more comfortably in one. I know the helmet won't save my bacon every time, but it made my head-bounce a little more comfortable at the lower speeds I produced by braking to try to avoid the driver entering my right of way. My other injuries were more serious than my sore neck in the end.

(And car-bike crashes are really pretty rare. I know more drivers who have had fender benders and real accidents with worse injuries than mine than cyclists who have crashed with cars and been so injured in my immediate circle. Yet, cyclists are usually worse-injured in car-bike crashes at lower speed than drivers, and the law should alert drivers to their part in that).

Careless lazy drivers need to be deterred and stigmatized at least as much as cyclists have been due to the ineffectual cycling helmet laws. Cycling is safe 99.9% of the time without careless drivers nearby. Drivers who respect cyclists as humans deserving legal right of way are fine, and drivers barred from the bike route are generally safe too while we're in the lane.

Helmets are not the real issue. Road sharing ettiquette, and the incentives and penalties around safe road use are. Bike shares would be great with gears in Vancouver. The helmet law can go, but some people will still wear them, and the real issue of contributory negligence by drivers not looking for cyclists should take centre stage in rare car-bike crashes.


pegamento said...

The adress to my blog ([SPAIN] SOCIEDAD SOSTENIBLE) it doesnt works :( Please, change to the new url. I moved to blogge from wordpress.

Now it's: http://sociedad-sostenible.blogspot.com/

Thanks :)

Avery said...

Further to the unsupported criticism of the Canadian Province of Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, there's a little known section that puts the onus squarely on the shoulders of drivers to show why they shouldn't be held liable for loss or damage when colliding with cyclists (and pedestrians).

Section 193. Onus of disproving negligence

(1) When loss or damage is sustained by any person by reason of a motor vehicle on a highway, the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle is upon the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle.

(2) This section does not apply in cases of a collision between motor vehicles or to an action brought by a passenger in a motor vehicle in respect of any injuries sustained while a passenger

Jan said...

"If you are commuting or training or spending any amount of time on roads with >50km/h limit probably you should wear a helmet."


Incorrect. Helmets are not designed nor tested for such conditions.

Ryan said...

Avery, I was not aware of this either until after the election. The only thing ever mentioned during that election was related to funding for all faith based schools.

He (Tory) was speaking on OTR (on TSN) and said he would have instituted an all ages helmet law. Whether he was blowing hot air, that I'm not sure of.

And yes, your right, the NDP is usually the party to implement helmet laws in this country. The current Ontario Liberals, for all their complete and utter failure, on numerous things have said they will not make adults wear helmets for anything from biking, skiing, etc.

Anonymous said...

Rose Green. That's the saddest news I've heard in a long time.My son, who suffers from autism, rides his scooter daily from our house in StKilda to his school in Elwood. He will not be wearing a helmet, ever, fines, or no fines. Ridiculous laws like this make me think we should leave this country behind forever.regards,Ian (Melbourne)