Lately I’ve been questioning if issuing helmet tickets is really the best use of police time. Helmets on cyclists don’t prevent collisions and certainly don’t make the roads safer for motorists or pedestrians.
Still, before today, I also thought maybe there some value to ticketing helmet less cyclists as helmets do provide some protection although not as much as many think. That was based on the assumption that police knew what they were doing when handing out tickets.
Well, that proved to be a really bad assumption. This afternoon, I was heading downtown along Cornwall when I saw two women standing on the street with bicycles talking with a man with a red quad on Chestnut at Burrard. As this is one of the most dangerous places to stand on the road at one of the most dangerous intersections in Vancouver, I thought that really can’t be a police officer giving out helmet tickets, can it?
For those not familiar with Chestnut, it is the first street off the south side of Burrard Bridge heading to the Planetarium. It is a blind corner due to a wall surrounding a pool and there is no sidewalk on the east side. The turn off Burrard is downhill making for longer stopping distances. People often walk on the road due to the lack of a sidewalk putting them in the path of turning cars and tour buses. There is also on street parking on the west side. Head on collisions between vehicles could result from drivers turning to avoid pedestrians or opening car doors. Bottom line is that it is dangerous for everyone. I have an outbox full of messages to the city on the many dangerous situations I have witnessed drivers, pedestrians and cyclists in at this corner. The City is even proposing closing the intersection to motor vehicles as part of the Cornwall Point Grey Greenway project.
As I was rather worried about people’s safety, I swung back to be sure it wasn’t. Well, it was. A Vancouver police officer giving out helmet tickets to the women, one of whom was standing a metre and a half or so away from the curb where she could have easily been hit by a turning car or bus. Being concerned, I told them to get off the road. I told the officer about the danger and that it was a horrible place to give out tickets. I suggested he ticket somewhere else, pretty much anywhere else.
Still, he stopped a male cyclist and had him stand in the road a bit closer to the curb than the women. He stopped another cyclist on Cornwall and had him walk around the blind corner. Not that safe either. He at least got a bit of a hint and had him stand on the grass off the road. Still, an officer should be trained to stop people in safe places. A civilian should not have to tell him something is not safe.
Not only was ticketing here unsafe for the cyclists and the officer, a driver steering to avoid them could hit another vehicle head on.
This brings up many questions including officer training. If this is not an isolated incident, the enforcement of the helmet law may be actually placing people at risk. Given the debate around effectiveness of the helmet law and the low percentage of fines that are being paid perhaps is it time that the BC Government grant a blanket exemption of the lawpending a full review as to its effects on the safety and health of British Columbians.
If you have experienced or witnessed other incidents where police enforcement has put you or others at risk, please detail them in the comments.
Never hurts to send a quick email to Premier Clark Premier@gov.bc.ca recommending that it is time for the Province to reconsider the Helmet Law.