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Bike helmet follow-up

For those curious about what happened in last night's Village Board meeting...it was a first reading of a proposed ordinance so nothing really "happened" other than a discussion about the law. I didn't go but we watched it from home on the village's tv channel.

Overall, I was pleased with the direction of the conversation. The police chief was there. The doctor being used as an adviser for the health aspects. And it quickly centered around the idea that people are in favor of kids wearing bike helmets, but uneasy with setting it up as a punitive ticket-fine scenario. The focus is really on the police interaction with older, unsupervised youths and wanting to make it a positive experience about education. So there were a lot of questions about how the police contact parents when stopping a child on a bike without a helmet. Calling mom and dad, documenting the incident, etc..

There's a weird (imagine that!) quirk in our village code that doesn't allow ordinances without penalty attached. If no punishment is mentioned in the ordinance itself, it reverts to a general $50 fine or something. Which is why the first draft intentionally was lower at $25 after warnings. But since everyone is trying to move it away from a punitive model, there was some mention that maybe community service would work instead of a fine. (Who gets the community service though--the parents and/or the kid?)

At this point, you probably can see why I said from the beginning that a youth bike helmet ordinance was a dumb idea. Firstly, how do you setup a "toothless" law and then enforce it? Secondly, how do you write a law that's fair to everybody involved and doesn't waste resources? The police chief was very specific that this would not be a priority for his officers and he does not support any kind of fine or ticket as part of the outreach.

Which, for at least one Trustee and myself, it begs the question: why are we doing this at all? The Mama certainly feels like we just spent a bunch of village time on something that probably shouldn't be taking up space on a busy taxpayer-funded agenda. (Go ahead, ask us to rank our Top Ten Village Priorities...I promise this doesn't make the cut.) It's a great time to enter into the age-old debate about how and when government should interfere in private freedoms. Those of you who know me or have read me for awhile certainly understand that I'm both strongly in favor of personal freedom but also believe government regulation is necessary in certain circumstances. Where you draw that line can be a matter of disagreement among friends (trust me, it is), but at least in this instance there are just too many reasonable, rational arguments to be made in favor of parental rights, bike culture, making bicycling more attractive and accessible, etc., etc..

So that's where things stand. There seems to be a middle ground here maybe where everybody is happy with an ordinance that will barely be enforced, but hey, on the books...though the Mama pointed out it's ridiculous. My reply to her was that if the ridiculous makes the most people comfortable then ridiculous we shall be. Watching laws be made is, indeed, like sausage. I still have hope that the wording is fine-tuned so this becomes the "we need to check with the parents of unaccompanied minors riding their bikes to see if they're aware helmets are a good idea" act.

There was a Girl Scout troop at the meeting who had to leave before the item came to the floor...but they smartly pointed out "what about scooters?" Touche. Don't even get us started on scooters, girls. Your moms and dads can only argue over one human-powered vehicle at a time.

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