By PLE Team volunteer Deqa Abdi, with assistance from law student Sarah Alexander

My name is John, I am 16 years old and I love to ride my bicycle. During the spring time the kids at my school ride their bikes.  I own a bike but my parents will not allow me to ride my bike without wearing my helmet. They say that my helmet is there to protect me from head injuries in case I fall. Yet, I do not like wearing it because it makes me feel like a baby and the kids at school will probably make fun of me. Besides, I usually ride on the sidewalk so I feel safe enough.

Usually, when I’m on my way to school I take my helmet with me but I immediately put it in my backpack so the kids at school do not see it. 

One day I was riding my bike home from school and I accidentally ran into a car pulling out of a drive way. The driver of the car was extremely furious and he yelled at me, even though his car was not damaged.

Due to this accident, I suffered some scrapes and a big bump on my head. The police were called and so were my parents. The police asked me why I wasn’t wearing a helmet and I told them that I didn’t like wearing it. They told me that because I am under the age of 18 it is required for me to be wearing one at all times while riding my bike. Also, if I was wearing my helmet I would have probably not suffered any head injuries.

The police also told me that the bike I was riding was intended to be ridden on the road since it was too large for me to be riding it on the sidewalk. In other words, he told me that many people use the sidewalks for walking and that it could be very dangerous if I were to lose control and bump into someone. He warned me and said that next time he would give me a ticket. He  advised me to either walk when I’m on the sidewalk or choose to ride my bike on the road.

Legal information

The Ontario law called the Highway Traffic Act categorizes cyclists as vehicles. That means that cyclists must follow the rules of the road in much the same way as cars do.

Many cities and towns have bylaws that prohibit cycling on the sidewalk.  For example, in the City of Toronto, if riding your bike on the sidewalk, the size of the wheel determines whether this is legal according to bylaw. Young children learning how to ride bikes are permitted to ride on the sidewalk; however, if the tire exceeds 61 cm, riding on the sidewalk becomes illegal. 
The consequences of failing to abide by the law include the possibility of being issued ticket and being made to pay a fine.  This is because if a bicycle on the sidewalk was to collide with a pedestrian the injuries could be severe. Therefore, it is very important for all people to follow these laws to avoid future problems and ensure safely among all.

Cyclists under 18 are required by law to wear an approved bicycle helmet when riding a bike on a roadway  in Ontario. This comes from the Highway Traffic Act  (see s. 104(2.1) and its Regulations.

The motivation behind requiring cyclists to wear a helmet is to reduce your risk of brain and head injury in the event of a crash or collision. Wearing a helmet is important and the consequences can range from fines in the most minor scenarios to sustaining serious injuries. In terms of police fines, parents can be charged if they knowingly allow their children who are under 16 to ride without a bicycle helmet. Moreover, cyclists who are 16 or 17 can be fined directly.

If you happen to get into an accident with a car and you are not wearing a helmet, the Highway Traffic Act states that the onus of proof that loss or damage did not arise through negligence or improper conduct of the driver is on the driver. This means that if you are hit by a motor vehicle, it will be up to the driver to show they were not negligent. However, if you have not been wearing a helmet this may work against you in the eyes of the law, for example a court could say that you contributed to your own injuries by not wearing a helmet. But if you have been injured in an accident with a vehicle, you may be entitled to statutory benefits regardless of who was at fault. (This gets more complicated. If you have questions about your own situation, you should talk to a lawyer.)

Bottom line: Head injuries are no joke. It is best to stay safe and wear a helmet while riding your bicycle- safety is fashionable.

Deqa Abdi is a JFCY volunteer and Member of the PLE Team.  She is a York University student.