Fredericton — In keeping with its image as a metropolis of Canadian firsts, Fredericton City Council passed an innovative new bylaw this week aimed at keeping pedestrians safe.
The “pedestrian helmet bylaw” goes into effect on Sept. 1, when the city’s foot traffic doubles with post-secondary students. For the first month the bylaw is in effect there will be a “soft enforcement” of the rule; this means Fredericton police will be giving warnings and reminding all pedestrians of the helmet requirement. Those walkers who fail to comply with the new regulation after Oct. 1 will be ticketed $20.
“This is about safety,” said police spokesperson Sgt. Terry Collins. “In Canada, from 2003 to 2010, there’s been an average of 344 pedestrian fatalities per year, compared to 55 cycling fatalities. Since we already require cyclists to wear helmets, we figured it was a no-brainer to require an at-risk group with 6 times the death toll to also wear helmets, especially in the vicinity of motor vehicles.”
A 2011 report by Transport Canada indicated that over a third of cyclist fatalities occur in the hours of darkness. Over 90 per cent of cyclists involved in this grisly statistic had inadequate lighting on their bicycle and person. Council believes that with the increased risk factor of being on 2 feet, as opposed to 2 wheels, they needed to up the safety ante with walkers.
“Most people go for a bike ride or a walk at nighttime — after supper,” explained Mayor Brad Woodside. “The statistics are hard to ignore. People are always walking around in the evening, ignorant to the fact they are basically camouflaged in their dull, everyday attire.
“This is why the pedestrian helmet bylaw includes wearing reflective tape or decals on your head gear. You could tape a headlamp on there, too,” continued Woodside. “We don’t want this to be a hassle, so in order to loosen everyone up about the idea, Fredericton police officers will be handing out reflective ‘Fred Head’ helmet stickers during the first month, so Frederictonians can jazz up their walking helmet. You’ll also be able to get them free at city hall. We’ll have contests to enhance public awareness of the initiative, like ‘best-decorated,’ and ‘show your cultural heritage,’ and other fun stuff like that.”
When asked whether all Freddy folks on 2 feet need to go out and purchase specialized protective headwear for the whole family, Woodside simply chuckled. “Any old helmet with a CSA sticker will do: motorcycle, construction, hockey, bicycle, football, or military. You name it — if it protects your head in any other circumstance, use it for walking, too,” he said, adding that he’s kept his Jari Kurri-style JOFA helmet from the ‘80s for just such an occasion.