'Leadership is failing': Prince Albert mayor, brain injury association push for Sask. bike helmet law

Prince Albert’s mayor is asking the province to create mandatory bike helmet legislation, which would make Saskatchewan one of the last Canadian provinces to require helmets for cyclists.

Prince Albert City Council is in the process of creating a new bike bylaw, but helmets will only be mandatory for riding electric bikes.

Mayor Greg Dionne argues the city can’t enforce helmets for all cyclists, with so many people coming from other cities and for the cost of putting up signs to inform people of having to wear helmets.

“Why you can’t do it by yourself is we’re a tourism centre, so tourists come, they bring their bike, they don’t have helmets. We stop them, say ‘You’ve got to have a helmet.’ That’s going to deter them,” he said.

“The only way things work is if it’s provincial-wide.”

Saskatchewan and Quebec are the only two Canadian provinces without mandatory bike helmet legislation. For other provinces, some have made it the law for all ages, and others for those ages 18 and under.

“Not to beat up on our province, but we seem to wait – and wait and wait and wait, and then follow, and sometimes you can get recognized as being the leader,” said Dionne.

Dionne said he’d like to see the province create bike helmet legislation for all ages. However, he said, even if it starts with 18 years old and under, eventually, everyone will be wearing helmets.

SGI is not considering recommending the province create legislation for bike helmets, according to spokesperson Tyler McMurchy.

“The thing about legislation is that it does require enforcement in order to be effective. If you want police to be writing tickets to kids for not wearing bike helmets, that’s a natural consequence to having legislation,” he said.

McMurchy said SGI’s focus is on education and positive reinforcement, rather than law.

“That can really go a long way to improving safety on our roads,” he said.

McMurchy said municipalities have the authority to create their own mandatory bike helmet bylaws. In Saskatchewan, people ages 16 and under must wear helmets in Moose Jaw and Estevan and people of all ages in Yorkton.

Glenda James, executive director of the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association (SBIA), said legislation has proven effective in preventing deaths and injuries from bike accidents.

“I think our leadership is failing in this regard. We can do this. We’re a province where people care about each other,” she said.

“Education is not enough. And I’m all for education, we do it all of the time and we’ll continue, but legislation makes the difference,” said James. “It tells people this is important.”

James said she knows people who have severe brain injuries from riding bikes without helmets, impacting their mobility and brain function, some landing them in a care home for the rest of their lives. Sometimes, she said, the difference between death and survival is how close you are to a hospital when the accident happens.