British Columbia

Helmets pose challenge for Vancouver bike share program

Vancouver's former planning director is urging the city to relax its helmet laws or face the failure of its $6 million bike-share program.
B.C.'s helmet law could hurt Vancouver's bike sharing system 1:53

The province's tough helmet laws could jeopardize Vancouver's $6 million bike share program, the city's former planning director has warned.

B.C. is one of the few jurisdictions in the world that require adult cyclists to wear helmets.

Former city planner Brent Toderian says getting people to share bikes is one thing, but also selling them on shared helmets is complicated.

"We are setting up our bike share system, for potentially — and I say this with great sadness — for failure," Toderian said.

He says the province should re-examine the laws.

"Look at them in the context of the bigger picture of health... how it relates to the incidence of accidents, not just the effects of accidents," Toderian said.

It has been several years since Mayor Gregor Robertson first raised the idea of a bike share for Vancouver.  Next week, city council will likely clear one of the last hurdles to get it on the road.

"It'll be a small rollout at first with only 25 stations and 125 bikes," said Vancouver City Councillor Heather Deal.

"Then we are going to work the glitches out. Then as soon as we know it'll be working out great, they'll be out in full force for next spring," Deal added.

When the bikes are installed, they will come with specialized helmet vending machines in order to comply with B.C. laws.

"[The helmets] are going to be cleaned, they are going to be fresh, they are going to be just yours for the day and we are not going to see that as a hindrance anymore," Deal said.

"We are going to see that as an opportunity that other cities are going to grasp," she added.

But bike shares in the few other cities with helmet laws have not fared well.

In Australia, both Melbourne and Brisbane require them. Last March, the Australian government offered 200 helmets for free to encourage riders, saying the program was "languishing" after it was introduced in 2010.

With files from the CBC's Emily Elias