bicycle helmets - campaign


      !!!! UPDATE !!!! - Helmet consultations not in this round.

      The Ministry has clarified that separate consultations will be held on legislative changes concerning helmet use so there is no January 29 deadline. The campaign to oppose forced adult helmet use will resume once it is known when public consultations occur. Meanwhile comments on other parts of the Cycling Strategy will close as planned on January 29 2013.

      To co-ordinate campaign activities, the Ontario Coalition for Better Cycling, first formed in 1992, has been re-formed once again to fight the province's plan to force adult cyclists to wear helmets. As before, it will cover the whole of Ontario with regional grassroots activity. Unlike the first time, when the OCBC was an umbrella group for clubs and associations, the organization will primarily be one made up of campaigners and supporters.

      Strategies and alliances are being worked out on the fly as we speak, so keep in touch with this web site. We have been compiling a mailing list (that's you if you sign up) to communicate developments and campaign tactics. From our experience last time, only political pressure works; direct access to politicians and indirect access via the media is essential.

      Examine the province's Cycling Strategy. The helmet statement is in item 11 on Appendix B.

      Public comments can be submitted via a web form or by snail mail:

      Michael DeRuyter, Policy Officer
      Ministry of Transportation
      Policy and Planning Division, Transportation Planning Branch
      Environmental Policy Office
      301 St. Paul Street, Floor 2
      St. Catharines, Ontario, L2R 7R4
      Phone: (905) 704-2853
      e-mail: you must mention EBR Registry Number 011-7552

      Submission guidelines


      Minister of Transportation:
      - and his office:
      Minister of Health Promotion:

      Leader of the Opposition:
      PC House Leader:
      PC Transport Critic:
      PC Health Promotion Critic:

      Leader of the NDP:
      NDP Transport Critic:
      NDP Health Critic:

      You can find the e-mail address of your MPP at Ontario Legislature website


      Briefing for legislators
      Canadian research examined
      Risk comparisons
      Test your risk perception
      OCBC letter to Premier
      Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation. There is a wealth of useful research at this site. It has been assembled by an international group of academics and other experts.

      More links to come ...

      PUT UP A Campaign Poster

      QUICK QUOTES - (Most of these are quotes from a previous campaign but interesting anyway ...)

      ""... the incremental contribution of provincial helmet legislation to reduce hospital admissions for head injuries seems to have been minimal." Dennis, J., Ramsay, T., Turgeon, A., Zarychanski, R. Helmet legislation and admissions to hospital for cycling related head injuries in Canadian provinces and territories: interrupted time series analysis, British Medical Journal (Published 14 May 2013), Cite as: BMJ 2013;346:f2674

      "Stricter bicycle helmet legislation and mass helmet usage in other countries (U.S.A., Australia, and New Zealand) have failed to produce any statistically significant reduction in the rates of fatalities and head injuries, despite optimistic projections. In addition, compulsory helmet use may result in reduced bicycle usage." Regional Coroner for Toronto, Report on Cycling Fatalities in Toronto 1986 - 1996

      "Although bicycle-related injuries are generally declining, this decline is not consistent, nor is it clearly associated with helmet laws" Injury Prevention, Sept 2010. Notable is that one of the authors, Alison Macpherson, has been a helmet law campaigner in Ontario.

      "Instead of shortening MRI waiting lists, fixing crumbling highways or improving Ontario students' educational scores, our provincial government is eradicating killer sushi, ripping vending machines from schools, banning pit bulls (good luck) and forcing adults to wear bike helmets." Walter Robinson Ottawa Sun Nov 25,2004

      "... perhaps we could apply the same sort of rules that are applied with respect to hunting: confiscation of bicycles if the people are not wearing the helmets." MPP David Turnbull Public Hearing May 4, 1992.

      "... this bill will fight that unfortunate human weakness that makes us act irresponsibly." MPP John Milloy sponsor of bill 129.

      "People don't like to be told what to do." Former MPP Dianne Cunningham sponsor of the original helmet bill in 1994.

      "...cycle helmets do not show the benefits that some have claimed" Dr Richard Keatinge from the Irish Medical Times

      "I'm strongly opposed to legislation that makes their (helmets') use mandatory" Canadian physician, Thomas J. Demarco M.D. from Don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg in JAMA.

      ACT NOW

      We must get our message clearly heard by our provincial elected representatives. They ultimately determine whether a piece of legislation succeeds or not. We need to talk to or write to our own MPP, the Premier, the ministers of relevant portfolios such as Transportation, Health, and Tourism and Recreation among others, and to key members of the opposition parties.


      Write letters to newspapers. Call the newsrooms of radio and TV stations. Refer them to this web site and the web site for information and references to studies which put forth our side of the argument.


      Supporters from outside of Ontario can help us by filling in the web form
      and by letting our Minister of Tourism know what this does to Ontario's image elsewhere Feedback Form


      Register Now via e-mail and let us know where you are in Ontario or elsewhere. There is no membership fee; only a commitment to work to defeat this proposal by acting politically. Numbers count with politicians. We ask you to point at least 5 more like-minded folks to our web site and ask them to do the same much like a chain letter. If we can get clubs and other organizations involved that will be a bonus. Ask your local cycling organization to support us and oppose the law too. Notify them of this campaign web site.

      We particularly would like to hear from anyone in organized cycling, say on the board of a club, or that has a track record in political lobbying. We would also like to get the support of physicians, others in the medical community, statisticians, epidemiologists and cycling instructors who can see how counter-productive forced helmet use is. If you know anyone that fits this profile get him or her to contact us.


      There are a multitude of valid reasons for opposing mandated helmet use. You likely have your own but below are some of the arguments that have been mentioned to us. You may not agree with all of them and the list is incomplete but use those you feel comfortable in defending.

      1. The legislative process is a complete waste of time and of Ontario taxpayers' resources. In 1991/2 the province spent close to $500,000 for a helmet bill which did nothing for cyclist safety. All of the recommendations of Ontario's cycling community were ignored and are still valid today.

      2. Detracts from proven methods to reduce cycling injuries, such as driver and cyclist skills training; enforcement of speed limits; prosecution of reckless drivers;

      3. It is a nanny-state measure interfering in the rights of citizens. It is government treating adults like children.

      4. When laws are enforced it discourages levels of cycling - proved by recorded declines in cycling in Australia and New Zealand; data for British Columbia showed cycling accidents of all kinds declined following legislation; this suggests that cycling declined there too; law promoters point to no decline among children in Ontario, butin fact it did even though the law has never been enforced.

      5. Police resources already stretched trying to deal with real crime; thus the law cannot be enforced without large increases in cost of policing; this would have to come from municipal authorities who are limited in revenue raising opportunities.

      6. The health of Canadians as a nation is appalling; obesity and heart disease are at epidemic levels; the protective value of exercise in reducing heart disease and cancer is proven; thirty minutes of cycling five days a week reduces the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer by 30% and heart disease by 50%. By reducing cycling, helmet laws endanger public health overall. Promotion of cycling should be a health policy strategy; for each year of life lost from cycling accidents twenty years are gained from the health benefits of cycling.

      7. Cycling is a low risk activity. It is less risky than playing soccer or tennis. Slightly riskier than golfing. See the stats and facts that show forced helmet use for the average cyclists is ridiculous.

      8. For every one serious head injury from cycling, there are 25 from car use. If the government insists on proceeding with this bill, it should add an amendment to include motorists (and pedestrians) to save taxpayers' money; they suffer far more head injuries than cyclists, so it would be fitting that legislators set an example.

      9. Helmets are not suitable or comfortable in many situations; in extreme heat conditions (30C plus); in cold weather (8c and below) many wear cyclists woollen headgear - safety is compromised; when climbing hills, increased energy is required and slower speed reduces cooling effect; women's aversion to "helmet hair" - not suitable for travel to work; sweat accumulates and runs into eyes from helmet;

      10. Fails to acknowledge the phenomenon of risk compensation, ie the benefits perceived from a safety device is consumed by behavioural changes that result in being offset by increased risk taking; has been observed when car seat belts were introduced - injury rate of drivers declined while rates for other users rose - ABS's, and airbags too; Canadians John Adams and Gerald Wilde are world leaders in this field.

      11. Use and abuse of statistics: the conclusions in many of the "popular" helmet studies have been developed using poor analytical procedures and have been strongly criticized by experts; claims of high helmet effectiveness have never been proved in studies of large populations; there is no evidence that increased helmet use has saved lives - Trend Charts show cyclist trends are no different from pedestrian trends.

      12. Government has not proved it's case: for some, helmets simply don't work: some believe they increase the risk to cyclists; some that they yield no benefit and no disadvantage; some believe they can be helpful in preventing abrasions and other minor injuries. Some believe helmets work as claimed but that the decision to wear one is up to the individual.

      13. Organized cycling, including the Ontario Cycling Association, the governing body for cycling sport and recreation, has not been consulted. Even since the first helmet law, lobbyists have never talked to those that have the expertise to make cycling safer.

      14. Violates Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights; requires limitations on life, liberty and security of persons to be in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

      15. Government does little to change behaviour of motorists; virtually all drivers including legislators and judges exceed speed limits; instead government places responsibility on vulnerable road users (potential victims); where's the "fundamental justice" that cyclists are entitled to under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

      16. Helmet laws elsewhere have reduced head injuries by reducing cycling e.g. Australia and New Zealand.

      17. To mandate helmet use falsely suggests that cycling is inherently dangerous. Data from the Ontario Road Safety reports indicate otherwise. On average there are about 20 cycling fatalities and 120 or so serious injuries annually. Some of the victims - around 25% according to the Coroner - would have been wearing helmets. Approx 95% of cyclists involved in reported accidents (i.e. collisions with a motor vehicle) suffer minor injuries or no injury at all. Cyclists suffer about 1.6% of all road fatalities and less than 4% of serious injuries. The Coroner also reported a high rate of HTA infractions and impairment among victims. A skilled, lawful and sober cyclist has a very low risk of being in a serious accident.


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