One Rider leads Lonely Crusade Against Helmets

    by Ross Crockford
    Monday Magazine April 15-21,1999 Volume 25 Issue 15

    "I try to consume as little as possible," says Victoria cyclist Bill Wilson. "That's why I'm into cycling in the first place. I try to do things as simply as possible."

    For Wilson, that simplicity also entails not wearing a bicycle helmet - a longstanding practice which has helped him get to know his way around Victoria's courthouse. Just hours after B.C.'s helmet regulations came into effect in 1996, Wilson was given the dubious honour of being the first person in Victoria to be issued a $29 ticket for failing to wear his headgear. He's received seven more tickets since then, and he's disputed every single one of them.

    "It's a way for the government to get out of doing real things for cyclists," says Wilson of the helmet regs. "The government treats helmets as the be-all and end-all for bicycle safety. I'd like them to work on the real safety issues." In Europe, he points out there are no requirements to wear helmets and yet they haven't noticed huge numbers of head injuries. "The helmet law hasn't worked. Where's the 88% drop in serious head injury [B.C.'s] helmet lobbyists predicted?

    Wilson also dislikes helmets because he thinks they discourage people from riding bikes, an argument which is often advanced by cycling groups whenever helmet laws are introduced in a new jurisdiction. But Victoria's cycling groups haven't exactly thrown their support behind him. Says John Luton, president of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition: "It may be noble fighting against Big Brother, but we've moved on."

    So Wilson goes it alone. So far, of his eight tickets, four have been either withdrawn by Crown prosecutors or thrown out because the arresting officers either didn't show up; three haven't gone to court yet. Wilson's lost only one case, and for that he paid a $10 fine.

    And even that he would've appealed on constitutional grounds--arguing, in part, that the law infringed upon his freedom to practice the religious values of simple living--until he discovered that printing a transcript of his trial would've cost $400. "It was easier for me just to wait for the next ticket," says Wilson.

    Reprinted with permission of Monday Magazine

May 1999
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