A city report on potential changes to the bylaws includes a letter signed by Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) lead medical health officer Cordell Neudorf which recommends “the City of Saskatoon does not proceed with a bicycle helmet law.”
“I’m 100 per cent for a bylaw,” he said.
Twenty-seven years ago, at age 11, Klassen wasn’t properly wearing his helmet when he sped through a stop sign and was hit by a moving vehicle.
“I was in a coma for three-and-a-half months. I was without speech for 11-and-a-half months,” he said.
Now, he has permanent brain damage and has become a safety advocate along with his mother, Sandra Klassen.
“I’m so surprised,” Sandra said about the proposal.
The proposal is not yet before city council and can be changed. It is scheduled to be reviewed again at the end of September.
In a statement to Global News, a health authority spokesperson said the SHA “found an enforcement bylaw may not have the intended desired effect, and in fact, could introduce drawbacks that could have a negative impact on health equity.”
A report by the SHA, included in the proposal, concluded that a bylaw was not the best way to reduce traumatic brain injuries because of the cost of helmets, the expected cost to implement a bylaw and possible unintended effects of a bylaw.
The health authority does encourage the use of helmets, but the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute (SPI), an organization dedicated to promoting safety, said that is not enough.
“We’re very disappointed, certainly,” said Cara Zukewich, the child injury prevention coordinator at SPI.
“It’s not the outcome we wanted. We wanted the City of Saskatoon to be a leader and enact a bylaw requiring mandatory helmet use for all cyclists.”
Zukewich said a good policy involves education and enforcement and that research has shown that laws mandating helmet use increase helmet use.
Sandra said a number of charities give helmets to cyclists who need them.
Sandra said she’s hoping for a bylaw requiring all cyclists to wear helmets and worries every time she sees a cyclist not wearing one.
“I get scared. In fact there’s times I’ll see people and I’ll actually pray for them because I don’t want another family to go through this.”
Sandra said a bylaw would be cheaper for taxpayers and save lives.