Canadian study stokes the compulsory helmet debate

‘Mandatory helmets do not discourage cycling’

The fiery debate over whether cyclist should be forced to wear helmets by law has been given fresh fuel by a University study in Canada, the Winnipeg Free Press reports.

The University of Manitoba and University of Ottawa have released a joint report that has found that mandatory helmet wearing legislation does not discourage recreational or commuting cyclists, adults and children alike, from cycling.

The CTC has been among the most vocal UK voices against mandatory helmet wearing, as seen here and on the well publicised High Court ruling last year.

The study was created to prove that point that such legislation wouldn’t harm cyclist numbers, according to co-author Ryan Zarychanski, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Manitoba.

"If any province needs this now, it could be us. We really don’t have cycling infrastructure like other provinces do. And this is a pretty dangerous city to cycle in."

Various provinces in Canada, including Nova Scotia and British Columbia, currently require cyclists to wear helmets while riding, whil others – like Ontario – have similar rules but for under 18s only.

The study found that helmets were worn by 73 per cent of respondents in Nova Scotia, where helmet legislation is in place. Just 40 per cent of Ontario respondents wore helmets (where legislation applies to the under 18s only).

The report also found that helmet laws in Alberta and Prince Edward Island had not changed the number of cyclists commuting or riding for leisure.

Local Manitoba politicians have been campaigning for changes in the law, incuding Liberal leader Jon Gerrard: "We’ve put it forward several times and it’s been rejected by the NDP. Making it mandatory has a positive impact. Most of us are law-abiding citizens and, if the law changes, we’ll follow it."

Legislation has not yet been ruled out for Manitoba, according to the NDP, but the party is currently concentrating on ‘the carrot approach’.

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