City puts a lid on mandatory bike-helmet talk

'We do need to share the road': Cycling infrastructure improvements still require safe practices

The City of Winnipeg is putting a lid on further talk about mandatory bike-helmet use after councillors accepted a cycling-safety report that recommended no course of action.

Council's protection, community services and parks committee voted 3-1 Monday to accept a research-literature review that stated bike helmets prevent injuries in collisions that occur at low speeds and dedicated cycling infrastructure can prevent higher-speed collisions between bikes and cars.

The committee asked city staff to look into mandatory helmets last year.

Report author Stephanie Whitehouse, Winnipeg's active-transportation co-ordinator, said a recommendation about mandatory bike helmets would require the city to spend more time and money consulting with the likes of its lawyers, as well as Manitoba Public Insurance, the Winnipeg Police Service and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

"That would require a bigger study, a bigger report," Whitehouse told reporters at city hall, stating she personally believes more dedicated bike lanes would do more to protect cyclists than a rule requiring all cyclists to wear helmets.

Right now, provincial rules require cyclists under the age of 18 to wear helmets. It's not clear if the city has the legal jurisdiction to enact bike helmet legislation of its own, Whitehouse said.

Committee chair Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas) said he wished her report included more information, but said he agreed the priority for the city should be to build more cycling infrastructure that separates cars from bikes.

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, the sole committee member to vote against receiving the report, said he too believes the report lacked detail but said he is far more concerned that the city hired a consulting firm to assist with the report while it was the subject of a conflict-of-interest and professionalism investigation by the city auditor.

That firm, MORR Transportation, is owned by Jeanette Montufar, an active transportation subcontractor whose tweets about Wyatt — and whose marriage to city transportation manager Luis Escobar — prompted an investigation. Her firm was ultimately cleared, though the investigation required the city to tighten up rules regarding what subcontractors say while they're employed by the city.

Wyatt said Winnipeg chief administrative officer Doug McNeil should not have sole-sourced a contract to MORR while the firm was under investigation.

"That causes me a lot of concern," Wyatt said.