by Dustin Gill
It's late and a street lamp is the only source of light guiding P.J. Bell as he unlocks his bike in front of the University of Regina’s kinesiology building. He wears no reflective gear and no helmet as he prepares for his dark ride home.
“I feel guilty about not wearing one...you know, peer pressure, your friends stop wearing them... I've gotten to the point where I should be. I didn’t know I would be here this late," said the third-year environmental studies student.
Bell is one of many students who are hitting the road with their bicycles as they begin another school year.
“I ride to school every day…I’m pretty bad about wearing a helmet, it’s one of those things I got used to not doing.” said Carissa, second-year visual arts student.
Carissa and Bell have both noticed an increase in bicycles around campus. “Bike racks at school are always full now. The university even offers indoor parking for bikes and those are pretty full too," said Carissa, despite the addition of new bike racks on campus.
With a surge of students on two wheels, the chances for cyclist-related accidents increase.
“What we did see this year is four straight months of record business...we had a great summer.” said Freddy Vandelinden, owner of Dutch Cycle in Regina. But not every bike was sold with a helmet. “It’s not law here, so a lot of people don’t.” He said.
Joelle Schaefer, child injury prevention coordinator for the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute, helped coordinate this year’s Ride Right: Know The Rules of the Road campaign. The campaign informed motorists that bicycles are also vehicles. “Cyclists are responsible for having safe cycling habits, but drivers need to know that they have to share the road with cyclists.” she said.
Schaefer lives near the University of Saskatoon. “I have noticed an increase in unsafe cycling...riding the wrong way down streets, (improper) clothing, no helmets. The education effort needs to be there and we try to do that from childhood,” she said.
Cyclist-related accidents cost the health care system $165 million a year according to the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute website.
Schaefer believes everyone benefits from safer cycling. “Stating bikes as a vehicle and helmet legislation” she said are big ways to improve safety. “Helmets have to be law...it’s a no brainer,” agreed Vandelinden.