Youth bike helmet ordinance still on track for Oak Park

Health board recommends community awareness campaign


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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

It hasn't made its way to the village board docket yet, but a proposed resolution requiring children younger than 16 to wear a helmet when biking in town has been backed by the Oak Park Board of Health.

The health board previously sought funding for similar safety programs in 2009 and 2010, but when grant funding wasn't available the plan hit the brakes. Now the possibility of an ordinance, along with an official report written by health board member Dr. Ravi Grivois-Shah, is ready for the village board.

In Cook County there are at least six towns that have bicycle helmet ordinances, typically for kids under 16, including River Forest. Although Oak Park's neighbor has the law on the books, police don't hand out tickets to offenders; rather, officers are encouraged to hand out "tickets" for items like free ice cream for those actually wearing helmets.

The report from the health board has been sent to the village manager's office and could be taken up by board by the end of the summer. Oak Park Public Health Director Margaret Provost-Fyfe said sometime in July is possible, but it may not come up until after the board's August break.

Grivois-Shah, an avid biker, said from personal experiences he's seen how important bicycle safety is for everyone in a community, not just kids. He emphasized the ordinance isn't financially driven as the group isn't recommending any type of official ticket be issued. Instead, the new ordinance would give parents a new tool for enforcement and hopefully raise awareness, he said.

The doctor's report cites national statistics about the dangers of riding a bike without a helmet, specifically pointing to a number that shows that 70 percent of fatal bike accidents are a result of head injuries and 90 percent of those were because the bicyclist didn't wear a helmet.

"With this ordinance, we hope to raise awareness on helmet use, something simple residents can do to prevent injuries," Grivois-Shah said. "Data have been clear that having ordinances like these do make a difference in terms on increasing bike helmet usage and decreasing biking injuries."

Oak Park hired the Active Transportation Alliance in 2008 to develop a 10-year plan to help develop Oak Park into a more bicycle-friendly community. This ordinance proposal, along with plans that call for more bike lanes, shared-road line markings and additional signage for bikers, may be part of a more comprehensive biking plan for the village.

Grivois-Shah said along with the ordinance recommendation, the group hopes to reach out to organizations that sponsor programs which promote or even provide helmets to kids who need them.

"Our goal wasn't just to have the mandate itself but to have more of a community response — to make the streets as safe as possible," Grivois-Shah said.

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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Posted: July 23rd, 2013 6:16 PM

In the context of the sentence "demands " is synonymous with "requires" or "needs". As in, "The situation demands attention." I said that a healthy community demands cooperation and conformity even as it protects individual liberty. I find no "double-speak" there. Could you expand on the ways my blogging here makes me similar to Assad?

George Orwell  

Posted: July 22nd, 2013 3:10 PM

I'm not equating safety law and dictatorship, just challenging your word choice. "Demanding? cooperation and compromise" was a choice bit of doublespeak on your part. Sounds like a pretty apt description of what Al Assad is doing of his people in Syria. Glad to see you correcting your phraseology to the more accurate "conforming with the rule of law". Nice effort though, Big Brother would be proud.

alt.progress from Oak Park  

Posted: July 22nd, 2013 1:54 PM

@George Orwell - following your logic all laws are dictated by despots. You are free to choose to conform to the rule of law or not. Your equation between safetly laws and dictatorship is childish.

Parent of The Year from Oak Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 9:29 AM

I make my children wear helmets, kneepads, and elbowpads at all times, even indoors and inside the car. I suggest we mandate this for everyone as well. You can never be too safe.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: July 2nd, 2013 10:01 PM

JBM- now I'm going to have to stop by 'Hole in the Wall Custard' for a soft serve cone tomorrow.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 2nd, 2013 9:47 PM

Free ice cream is OK in Oak Park on Wicked Wednesdays.

Pete Prokopowicz from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 2nd, 2013 9:06 PM

Until we have single payer healthcare, taxpayers don't pay for all head injuries, just some. If you don't like having your health and lifestyle choices made for you, be wary of giving gov't this justification. It can be used to regulate ANY behavior that might affect your health costs. I make my daughter wear a helmet because she is not a careful enough biker yet. I only wear mine for commuting downtown.

George Orwell  

Posted: July 2nd, 2013 5:37 PM

alt-progress: The terms compromise and cooperation imply choice and freewill. A community who would corrupt their meanings by "demanding" them of their citizens is no community at all but a dictatorship.

Data Lover  

Posted: July 2nd, 2013 4:55 PM

How many fatal bike accidents involving kids 16 and under in Oak Park in the past 10 years and what percentage were not wearing helmets? How many pedestrians have suffered head injuries who were not wearing helmets?


Posted: July 2nd, 2013 12:30 PM

A great community is made when individuals make personal choices while maintaining awareness of and respect for other individuals. A good community encourages and protects individual rights and freedom while also demanding individuals to compromise and cooperate.


Posted: July 2nd, 2013 10:59 AM

More laws dictating personal choice make a great community.

Health Nut from Oak Park  

Posted: July 1st, 2013 3:06 PM

I applaud the idea, but I disagree with the coupon for ice cream as a reward. Perhaps a coupon for USDA certified organic carrot sticks, or a gluten-free cracker drizzled in beet juice would be more of a treat?

Safety First from Oak Park  

Posted: July 1st, 2013 2:57 PM

We should require runners to wear helmets too.

OP res  

Posted: July 1st, 2013 2:40 PM

Hope it gets passed--kids are not free-thinking citizens; they need rules and consequences particularly if parents aren't going to ensure their kids are wearing helmets. In the past week, I've seen two young people almost get hit by cars, and no helmets. Yes, forcing kids to wear helmets is the wisest thing to do and in their best interest. When injuries happen, taxpayers pay the price.

Violet Aura  

Posted: July 1st, 2013 9:34 AM

Dale: As a child-free adult, I don't exist to be anyone's role model. So if you choose to breed, YOU be the kid's role model! It's bad enough that parents get all sorts of perks for breeding but the buck stops at you.

The Real Violet Aura  

Posted: July 1st, 2013 9:31 AM

Okay, I LOLed @ the fake Violet's commet on here. Bridget, I did not write that one. As for cell phones and GPS? I just got my first cell phone recently and made sure it was not GPS activated;)

joe from south oak park  

Posted: June 30th, 2013 11:21 PM

Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be 'cured' against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. - C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: June 30th, 2013 11:17 PM

quote - Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth

OP Resident #253  

Posted: June 30th, 2013 9:54 PM

So it's okay to sell/score heroin at the McDonalds across the street from the police station, but for GODS SAKE don't let your kids ride bikes without helmets? Can we please get our priorities straight? Well intentioned discussion, but can we deal with the real issues? PLEASE!?!?!? I just don't get why heroin is acceptable in our community.


Posted: June 29th, 2013 12:13 PM

@Dale I'm not sure the discussion is "long overdue." It's been ongoing and continues as we speak...with the Village struggling to stay in the game. There are numerous websites specifically geared to Chicago area bike and pedestrian safety. Some of it involves improving bicycling infrastructure so car-bike encounters are less likely to happen. But, you're right, it has to be a balanced approach from multiple angles.

Dale from River Forest  

Posted: June 29th, 2013 12:04 PM

I welcome this discussion because maybe it will lead to a larger and long overdue discussion on bicycle safety. The first step is for everyone sharing the road to obey the laws enacted for their safety. The second step is for adults to set a proper example for the kids by obeying those laws whenever riding their bicycles or driving their cars. The last is for the police to finally start enforcing those laws. If you don't know the laws, google the Illinois Vehicle Code and bicycles.

And a few more laws  

Posted: June 29th, 2013 7:31 AM

Why do we have stoplights? I don't want the nanny state telling me when I can and can't stop! Why do my tax dollars pay for lifeguards? We need to stop coddling those kids; let the weak ones drown! And why does the govt tell me I can't murder who I want? Fight the nanny state! False flag! Conspiracy! Gun grabbers! Waaaaaaaaa!!!!!!

Few More Law ideas  

Posted: June 29th, 2013 7:18 AM

Type II diabetes is on the rise and cost taxpayers money. Those who don't exercise should be given a ticket. The farmer's market doughnuts should come with a warning label and should not be served to anyone who looks overweight..

joe from south oak park  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 10:25 PM

We all pay the medical bills for folks that make poor food choices and live sedentary lifestyles... That's the way that health insurance or medicaid/care works. Do we ban 20 oz sodas and fast food?

No please not again from No please no no   

Posted: June 28th, 2013 10:04 PM

John Butch Murtagh, must we turn every thread on this entire website into a referendum on guns? So tired of it.

Art Bell from Undisclosed Location  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 10:01 PM

Bridgett and the always loopy and grating Violet. Forget cell phones, worry about the RFID chips in all of the new credit cards. Violet you'd better bust out the tinfoil hat! Scary business. It ties right into those birther. chem trails, taking our guns from our homes, 9-11 was a setup, grass knoll, fake moon landing rhetoric Violet adores.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 8:47 PM

I am all for people of a certain age deciding for themselves to wear or not wear a helmet. However, I think taxpayers should be able to choose if helmets are not being worn if they will pay for the lifetime care of someone with a serious head or spine injury who chose no helmet or seatbelt or whatever that would have lessened this likelihood.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 5:32 PM

@Ellen, let's not forget that bike helmets are only tested up to about 14 mph. Plenty of people wearing helmets end up with massive head injuries. Bicycling involves risk.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 5:25 PM

@VA, If a person carries a cell phone, they are already being tracked. No need for a car in order to do that.

Ellen Green  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 5:22 PM

May none of those opposed be victims of a head injury. By the way, we ALL pay the medical bills of such victims.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 5:05 PM

@Michael R Text of the Village Code just have to be outside a zoning district to ride on a sidewalk. "A. No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district. B. No person fifteen (15) or more years of age shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk in any zoning district. C. Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk such person shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian."

Violet Aura  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 4:28 PM

Helmet Head = HH = Hiel Hitler! Helmets are a conspiracy by the car companies to discourage bike ownership. The govt wants us to drive cars so they can track us with GPS. Wake up, sheeple!!!

OP Mom from Oak Park  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 4:22 PM

I got the call every parent dreads when my son was hit by a car riding his bike to Julian. Thankfully his head never hit the street - he was not wearing a helmet. The police gave him a stern warning to always wear one but the next week he was riding w/o one b/c it would look "uncool" to the other kids. I tried to make him wear it but he would take it off as soon as he could. I'm all for a law with actual tickets, not just ice cream coupons.

Michael Riordan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 4:16 PM

@Cyclist By Oak Park Ordinance It actually is illegal for anyone over the age of 14 to ride their bike on the sidewalk, and for anyone to ride on a sidewalk in business districts.

Bigger Brother  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 4:06 PM

My problem is the constant nanny state attitude. Yes, wearing a helmet is likely better than not wearing one. A low fat diet and regular exercise.actually has a greater affect on your well being than a bike helmet but I don't believe the government should pass a law mandating exercise and food choices in a free society.

Dan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 3:52 PM

Thank goodness government it out there to tell us how to live healthier and safer. What we ever do without government?


Posted: June 28th, 2013 3:48 PM

@LOL I run a parenting website. Most of the parents I know consider it a constant humbling lesson and roll their eyes at the "have it figured out" types. Then again, this is Oak Park...we love to think everybody else's business is our business. lol


Posted: June 28th, 2013 3:34 PM

"I certainly hope parents aren't running around saying their way is the best." You are certainly not a parent, nor do you know any parents.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 3:29 PM

I certainly hope parents aren't running around saying their way is the best. But I do agree with the idea that kids need to have the power to make some important, possibly dangerous decisions on their own and find out consequences. We're a society of danger-fearing overly-afraid people sometimes...we all need to scrape our knees more, get dirty, and maybe ride a bike without a helmet if we wish. I have no problem with my kids enjoying mildly-dangerous activities. It'll toughen 'em up. lol

Helmet Head  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 3:22 PM

Yes, it's true that parents make different choices for their kids. You may also choose to not vaccinate your kids. You may choose to have loaded guns in your home. You may let them ride in the front seat of your car without a seat belt. I guess if they make it to adulthood, you can claim your way was best. That seems to be the way most people decide to parent. We all make our choices, and I hope yours work out for you.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 3:18 PM

@John I'll let you research the studies and advocates, but the basics of anti-helmet activists point out that helmets make bicycling look dangerous when it is not. It should be a pleasant, easy form of exercise and transportation. And that other nations mock the American helmet tradition while they ride around their safe-cycling-infrastructure cities without a care. I'm pretty sure my helmet won't help me in a severe crash, but it's required when I race so might as well train with it.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 3:13 PM

@John I encourage people to wear helmets. But it's their choice and the government need not be involved. @Helmet I don't make my toddlers wear a helmet to ride their trikes or be in the bike trailer, but they both have them. You gotta think about kids going to sports practice or school already carrying lots of equipment or bags. Requiring helmets isn't practical always either. Plus don't forget this ordinance would have no cops pulling anyone over it sounds like. Not sure the pt really.

Helmet Head  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 2:55 PM

I didn't mean ill-formed, I meant unformed, as in, not-fully-developed. My son's brain is perfect.

Helmet Head  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 2:53 PM

My kid is not allowed on a bike without a helmet. He loves to bike, so so far this is not a problem. As he gets older, I fear peer pressure, adolescent rebellion, and stupid mistakes made by an illformed brain may take over. Knowing you might get stopped by a cop or neighbor for breaking a law might encourage more kids to do the right thing. Which many cyclists and others will agree means wearing a helmet.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 2:25 PM

Cyclist - so we should encourage people to not wear cyclist helmets so there will be more cyclist. Sounds like a pitch from the gun lobby.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 2:19 PM

I'd take it even further, Helmet. The cycling community is known for being friendly and thinking for itself. If anybody has questions, come ask a cyclist! Depending on your type of riding, experience, and skill level we can point you to all sorts of resources to have a fun and safe ride. No help from the Board of Health needed! lol

Helmet Head  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 1:04 PM

I urge everyone who is thinking about whether or not they or their kids need a helmet to read the following page: It is I think a fair assessment of the questions you want to think about. Don't base your decision on one study that Cyclist mentions, or the one study that found that 97% of dead NYC bicyclists were not wearing helmets and make your decision based on the information as a whole.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 12:36 PM

The problem with mandatory helmet laws is it drives down the rate of people who ride bikes--which is not the goal. And it creates a sense of invulnerability to those wearing a helmet when in fact 90% of cycling head injuries come from motorists. Not much a helmet is gonna do against that big, heavy metal box. One study in England actually found drivers give riders without helmets more clearance. I dunno the right answer. But it's probably not laws.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 12:30 PM

Keep in mind this ordinance would have absolutely no weight behind it, sounds like. No fine, no penalty. Then again, the recent OP/FYI seemed to suggest it's illegal for adults to ride on the's not. So I think the powers that be are a little confused about bike laws, bike safety, and best practices.

Helmet Head  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 12:29 PM

We all know at least one young man who died on a motorcycle, and we all know at least one bicyclist who say they would've died without wearing a helmet. Everyone SHOULD wear a helmet. It's totally stupid that Illinois has no helmet law, and I personally would have a couple more cousins if it did.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 12:13 PM

This may have a hard time passing, since motorcyclists in Illinois aren't even required to wear helmets. But, we are talking about children, and Illinois does have laws regarding child car seats. But, then again, this would be a Village ordinance rather than a state law. So, we'll see...


Posted: June 28th, 2013 11:59 AM

If helmets prevent head injuries in only 20% of accidents, I'm okay with requiring their use. Head injuries are devastating and often people never recover. I cringe when helmetless parents ride with their helmeted kids: what are they thinking? Do they expect their kids to drop out of elementary school and go to work so they can care for their parent for the rest of their lives? I often see kids in OP with ipods, running red lights, with their helmets hanging from the handlebar. A law would help


Posted: June 28th, 2013 11:55 AM

That's why I wear mine. I figure it can't hurt and MAY help. But I think helmet advocates do a disservice to safety when they claim evidence to support helmet use that doesn't actually exist. Education is probably a better route to go. Helmets have to be worn correctly, be recently manufactured, fit properly, etc.. Proper helmet use is a tiny, tiny fraction of overall bike safety.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 11:53 AM

This is the problem with government. The insatiable need to create laws whether they are effective or not. Do we really need a law to tell people they should probably wear a helmet? At some point, you have to let common sense and darwinism run its course. I don't know how I made it to an adult with all the helmetless bike riding, BB guns, fast food, peanuts, and second hand smoke I was exposed to as a child. Good grief.

To Cyclist  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 11:18 AM

I need no scientific study to know that 2 weeks ago my husbands life was saved wearing his helmet! It certainly couldn't hurt to make them wear it.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 10:53 AM

Many years ago, my brother was cycling on Oak Park Avenue, helmetless, and was struck by a motorist . He suffered a head injury that had devastating consequences several years down the line when his head was struck again and subsequently had deep brain bleeding. It is a miracle he survived. He has borne the physical consequences of this series of events for all of his life. I urge everyone to wear a helmet when they cycle and for motorists to share the road respectfully with cyclists.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 7:21 AM

Re: cycling with earbuds...not something I'd do but also technically not illegal according to IL bike laws. @BIgger Brother there is no scientific agreement about whether bike helmets really help. Some show injury reduction, some show no effect. Mandatory helmet laws usually reduce the number of cyclists but have increased compliance for a short time before the numbers return to before the law was passed. IMO it should be a personal decision though.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 10:09 PM

All bikers should have to wear helmets.

Bigger Brother  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 9:30 PM

This sounds like a solution looking for a problem. How about some real statistics before we pass yet another law. How many 16 and under head injuries would have been eliminated if the child was wearing a helmet? If it's 75% or more, let's discuss the merits. At best this should be a proclamation like meatless Mondays.

Safety first  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 9:23 PM

I have also seen young people texting while riding their bikes! There should be a serious penalty for this. It is even more common to see people wearing ear buds listening to music while riding a bike. This may seem innocent, but they are putting themselves in danger by being unable to hear traffic sounds.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 8:53 PM

Most welcome and long overdue. It can be trying for parents to get their kids to wear a safety helmet when dealing with the argument that "none of my friends wear one". Regarding Brian Slowiak's posting, the VIllage is going to have post some signs along our borders to inform visitors of the requirement.

Anna Lothson from Wednesday Jorunal  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 8:00 PM

@Bridgett. Good point. It's for anyone under 16. I've updated the story.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 7:04 PM

The police will now have a great tool to use to stop cyclists from the west side of Chicago touring our community.


Posted: June 27th, 2013 6:24 PM

This is a controversial topic in the cycling community...some argue it makes cycling look unsafe & the data shows very few injuries are helped by wearing a helmet. I personally wear one & it's required when I race. But let's educate, not make "recommendations" even. It's up to parents and cyclists themselves to know how to stay safe out there. And, by the way, almost nobody wears a helmet to ride casually in other parts of the world.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 6:01 PM

Teens younger than 16? So 13,14, and 15 year olds?


Posted: June 27th, 2013 5:22 PM

How about no texting or cell phone use in cars for all people in OP???

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