Amherst police stepping up cycling safety enforcement
Cole Pardy navigates his way through the pylons during a bike rodeo at the Amherst Stadium on Wednesday. The event was part of the Amherst Police Department's kickoff of the Heads Up, Helmets On program. Darrell Cole - Amherst Daily News
AMHERST - The town is about to get tough with bicyclists who refuse to wear a helmet.
Starting today, police officers will be seizing bicycles, scooters and skateboards and issuing fines on certain days. On other days they will be rewarding those who are complying with the laws requiring them to wear a helmet.
"Every week we're going to have an enforcement day during which there will be no warnings, bikes will be seized and people will get tickets," Const. Francis Smith of the Amherst Police said Wednesday during the kickoff for the Heads Up, Helmets On program at Amherst Stadium. "On the other days we'll be having rewards days. Many businesses in town have given us prizes and when we see kids wearing helmets we'll be giving them out and encouraging them to wear helmets."
Amherst Police were joined with their counterparts from CN in kicking off the provincewide program during a morning session sponsored by Wal-Mart. Participants were tested on their "Noggin Knowledge" through a video and then participated in a number of skill-testing activities with an opportunity to win prizes.
Following the event, Austin Hicks had his name randomly selected to win a new bicycle.
It didn't take much to convince Alysha Deegan about the benefits of helmet use.
"I've always used a helmet on my bicycle because I don't want to hit my head and injure my brain," the 12-year-old said. "You could get hurt really bad if you fall and don't have a helmet on."
Deegan enjoyed the day and found the activities challenging.
Smith was impressed with the number of children who participated in the morning event, but was disappointed with the condition of some of the bicycles. He said quite a few bicycles checked during the event did not have working brakes.
Amherst Police have been working at educating, and in some cases charging, bicyclists since the provincial legislation was passed two years ago requiring helmets during the use of non-motorized wheeled vehicles.
The Heads Up, Helmets On program is the latest initiative and Smith is hoping focused enforcement will drive the message home that it's not only unsafe to use a bicycle without a helmet, it's also illegal.
Those ticketed in July and August will have the option of attending a session at the Amherst Lions Club in September at which time their fines will be forgiven. Those who don't attend will have to pay the $135 fine.
Smith said the department's statistics indicate about 56 per cent of bicyclists wear a helmet and he pointed out that most who aren't in compliance are adults. Children, he said, were quick to buy into the program because of education and awareness in area schools.