"Council revisits helmet ordinanceSkateboarders, skaters, scooter riders would also be covered."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:35 PM
"Buckle up, Bainbridge.The city council is revisiting a long-dormant bicycle helmet ordinance, under the sponsorship of Councilwoman Liz MurrayI know most of the kids and many adults wear them as a matter of course, Murray said, adding by analogy, But I know I didn't wear my seatbelt until they made it a law.The ordinance was introduced last fall, but has been stuck in committee over questions of liability and enforcement. The council's community relations committee will discuss the issue at its next meeting, 4 p.m. Feb. 1 in the council chambers at city hall.As now proposed, the ordinance would mandate helmet use by all bicycle riders, skateboarders, roller-bladers and scooter riders under age 18 and using public roads or trails. Parents would be responsible for ensuring that their youngsters were helmeted. The age provision replaces an earlier draft, since scrapped, that would have mandated helmet use by adults as well.Bike-helmet ordinances have long been championed by public health advocates. Sixteen Washington jurisdictions now have such laws, including the cities of Poulsbo and Bremerton and King and Pierce counties.According to information provided by the Kitsap County Health District, head injury is the leading cause of death in bicycle crashes, and bicycle helmets reduce the risk of serious head injury by 85 percent.Advocates also cite the savings in direct medical costs that come with helmet use.Nevertheless, passing an ordinance that mandates helmet use - even by kids - has proved to be a quagmire.The Bainbridge council considered such an ordinance in 1994, sponsored by then-councilman Andy Maron. The issue inspired a lively public hearing in which many opponents - among them, island teens - raised civil-liberties issues.The ordinance was tabled while the Legislature considered a statewide helmet law; that too mired, but the Bainbridge ordinance wasn't revived.Maron, who has a minor history of bicycle accidents with and without his helmet, said recently that he still supports the ordinance and will testify in its favor.Kitsap health officials said that several programs and foundations already in place around the county would let kids get a certified helmet at low or no cost.To allow time for an education campaign, only warnings would be issued for the first year of the law. After that, according to the current ordinance draft, infractions could earn a $25 ticket.Murray said she doesn't intend to the helmet ordinance to be a club.It's kind of like the seatbelt law, she said. It's more of an awareness issue. "