Panel likely will require that kids who bike wear helmets

Posted: Sunday, January 29, 2006

Parents of Juneau children caught pedaling bicycles without wearing a helmet may have to pay a $25 fine soon.

The Juneau Assembly will most likely approve an ordinance Monday requiring everyone under 18 to wear a helmet, Juneau Assembly member Merrill Sanford said. Former Assembly member Marc Wheeler first proposed that the city staff look into the ordinance.

"This may save lives and reduce injuries," Sanford said. "Kids really do not know what they are doing sometimes, and we want to protect them."

The ordinance amends Chapter 72.02 of the city's Rules of the Road. It states that parents and guardians are responsible for violations of bicycle ordinances by their children. The fine will be waived if the person provides proof that they have purchased a helmet after the time the citation was issued.

Sanford, a retired Juneau fire chief, said he has seen several serious bike accidents through the years with injuries that could have been prevented or "at least lessened" by a helmet. He said he is confident other members of the Assembly will approve the ordinance during the Assembly meeting Monday night.

One 13-year-old Juneau boy, Marshall Sargent, said the city did not have to tell him he must wear a helmet. A helmet already saved his life in Hawaii. He never bikes without one, he said.

"I was flying down a hill on my bike and hit a speed bump," Sargeant said. "I broke my arm and hit so hard that it cracked my helmet. I was lucky to have it (the helmet) on."

Wheeler said he was inspired after becoming aware of a similar bicycling ordinance in Sitka. He is executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Alaska, a youth-mentoring organization.

"I care for kids very much and, as a father, feel I have a responsibility to look after them," Wheeler said. "I am glad the Assembly is moving forward with this because it was proposed with that in mind."

• Jason Steele can be reached at jason.steele@juneauempire.com.



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