Niels Konge says no to ‘nanny-state’ Yellowknife helmet law

Yellowknife officially joined the debate over bike helmet laws when city councillor Niels Konge put a stop to a bylaw that would make helmets mandatory for anyone under 18 on a bike, scooter or skateboard.
The City of Yellowknife was expected to pass a bylaw making helmets mandatory for anyone under 18 riding a bike, scooter or skateboard. Instead, councillor Niels Konge voted against the bylaw last night. (Adam Berry/Getty)

The City of Yellowknife has officially joined the debate over whether bike helmet laws are as essential way to prevent injuries or a ‘nanny-state’ rule that discourages people from cycling at all.

A bylaw that would make helmets mandatory for anyone under 18 when riding a bike, scooter or skateboard had the support from the majority of city council and was expected to make it to the third and final reading

But last night, councillor Niels Konge voted against the bylaw moving forward to final reading.

Konge says it promotes a nanny-state, and will stop kids from being active.

“If it's going to reduce ridership and the overall health benefits of riding a bicycle,” he says, “is that weighed with having a helmet bylaw? And I don't think that is."

Konge isn't against helmet use, but he'd like people to be able to choose to wear helmets. 

The final vote on the helmet bylaw is now expected June 24. That gives Yellowknifers time to send in their comments and concerns. 

Council decided to enact the bylaw after conducting a survey last month.

Preliminary results showed 84 per cent of those surveyed supported a bike helmet law for youth under 18, while only 65 per cent supported an all-age rule.

Early on in last night's meeting, councillor Cory Vanthuyne proposed the bylaw be expanded to cover all ages. No other councillors supported the idea. 

Notes from the committee that reviewed the bylaw point out that council has the authority to decide how much to enforce any given bylaw. It also says the majority of council favours an ‘education before enforcement model’ and a six-month grace period.

The City of Whitehorse passed a mandatory bike helmet law in 2003, with fines of up to $50 for not complying.

To helmet or not to helmet?

Last fall, the Canadian Pediatric Society called for strict helmet laws for people of all ages.

Parachute, a national injury prevention organization, says that research shows four out of five head injuries could be prevented if every cyclist wore a helmet, and says that helmet laws don’t discourage people from getting active.

However, others argue that helmet bylaws discourage cyclists from using the road, and therefore reduces the critical mass that is more important to bike safety.


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