Kids: Bike helmets the rule

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Columbus children younger than 18 have a year to get used to bicycle helmets.

Compromise legislation approved last month by the City Council will delay enforcement of the rule until next summer. It also caps fines at $25 and allows police to issue warnings instead of tickets.

Although the ordinance won unanimous council approval, Public Safety Director Mitchell Brown remained opposed, saying it would be too costly and difficult to enforce.

The department already is under orders from Mayor Michael B. Coleman to rein in police and fire overtime.

WBNS-TV (Channel 10) reported last month that Coleman is considering canceling both divisions' recruit classes scheduled for December.

Chief of Staff Michael D. Reese said a decision will be made in October.

Councilwoman Charleta B. Tavares insisted the new helmet law won't add to police duties. Like jaywalking laws and others, she said, it will be weighed by police as they go about their jobs.

At least 20 other cities in Ohio have adopted helmet laws, Tavares said. Nationally, 10,700 children are hospitalized annually from bike-related accidents.

Councilman Andrew J. Ginther and Councilwoman Maryellen O'Shaughnessy, who opposed earlier versions of Tavares' proposal, joined the other five members in approval.

"The perfect is not the enemy of the good," Ginther said.

Coleman hasn't decided yet whether to sign the legislation, let it become law without his signature or veto the proposal, Reese said.

Coleman, Brown and Ginther wanted the health department to enforce the law, not the police. They advocated for a system similar to the one used by the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights.

Council aides, Coleman administration officials and City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. huddled in pairs for more than three hours before council members began debate on Tavares' proposal.