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Vancouver acknowledges that helmet law could scupper bike-share

Responding to comments from the European Cyclists' Federation that the province's helmet law could jeopardise the city's proposed bike-share scheme, Vancouver's transportation manager, Jerry Dobrovonly acknowledged that British Columbia's helmet law poses the "biggest risk" in getting the rental system off the ground and may potentially result in the program being shelved.

Dobrvonly said the city is negotiating with Alta Bike Share to provide bikes and helmets, to make sure that helmets are easily accessible, are cleaned and disinfected after every use, and are replaced if they're involved in a fall or crash. Alta realizes the helmet issue could risk the viability of the business.

"Even if they have a solution that works but the public perceives [helmets] as an obstacle, then they may be looking at lower ridership, usage and lower revenue," Dobrovolny said, adding Vancouver also wants to be assured of a faster uptake in its program than that experienced in law cities like Melbourne.

Ceri Woolsgrove, road safety officer with the European Cyclists' Federation which is jointly organising the international cycling conference Velo City that starts in Vancouver next week, said cities with mandatory helmet laws tend to see fewer cyclists in bike-share programs compared with those that don't. Bike-share schemes in helmetless European cities, for instance, are flourishing.

"[Bike-sharing] seems to be such a good investment; it's really taken off in Paris and all over Europe," said Woolsgrove. "It'll be a shame if it doesn't take off in Vancouver because of the helmet law."

Between 2006 and 2011, Vancouver Police data show 7,871 tickets were issued to cyclists for failing to wear a helmet.

Thu 21 Jun 2012

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