Windsor

Windsor cyclists not strapping on helmets

Musician Tara Watts called on fellow cyclists to strap on helmets as she continues to recover from a concussion and brain bleed suffered during a severe bike crash last week. But that could be a challenge - just 20 per cent of Windsor cyclists report wearing helmets, according to Statistics Canada.

As she recovers from cycling accident, musician calls for others to wear headgear

Const. Cealia Gagnon of Windsor police community service branch was handing out free bikes and helmets Thursday promoting bike safety at Camp Brombal.

Musician Tara Watts called on fellow cyclists to strap on helmets as she continues to recover from a concussion and brain bleed suffered during a severe bike crash last week.

The musician wasn't wearing a helmet at the time and has since pleaded with others to protect themselves before getting on their bikes.

But that could be a challenge, considering the city has the lowest rate among its Canadian counterparts when it comes to cyclists donning protective head gear.

Fewer than 21 per cent of residents report wearing helmets, a Statistics Canada survey from 2013-2014 shows. Only Regina, Sask., came close to that level, with 23 per cent of those surveyed saying they wore a helmet.

At the other end of the spectrum, more than 83 per cent of cyclists in Victoria, B.C., reported wearing headgear. 

"I don't wear a helmet. I'll be the first to admit it," said Maciejka Gorzelnik, a friend of Watts. "But that's going to change."

Spreading the word

Other friends are spreading the message as well. In addition to raising money to help Watts while she takes time away from performing, many of those friends have vowed to don protective headgear.

Cara Kennedy refuses to get back on her bike until she buys a helmet.

"I saw Tara yesterday. She's in a lot of pain," Kennedy said. "It's a tragic thing that I hope everybody learns from."

Nancy Drew recently started wearing a helmet again after her husband had a minor crash on his bike. She said the injuries Watts suffered struck a chord with many people.

"I think all of us are thinking about it a little bit more," she said. "It sucks to have to wear a helmet, it messes up your hair, it's hot, it's summer, but it's a lot worse when you have to deal with injuries."

Sharing the blame

Other cycling advocates say helmets are just a small component to overall bike safety. Too often the onus to stay safe is put on cyclists, explained Oliver Swainson of Bike Windsor-Essex, a group that promotes cycling throughout the region.

Swainson wants to see more focus placed on improving city infrastructure, educating motorists, and ensuring proper fines are issued during altercations.

"Unfortunately, helmet usage is only providing damage control for a problem that already exists," he said. "We're looking at preventing the accident in the first place."

Helmets are still important, though, say Windsor police. 

"A helmet is the No. 1, key thing to have," Const. Cealia Gagnon said. "We have too many injuries and collisions that happen with cyclists. We want to make sure they're safe."

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