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Brunswick mulls bicycle helmet law on Androscoggin path

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Brunswick mulls bicycle helmet law on Androscoggin path

BRUNSWICK — Bicyclists on the Androscoggin River Bike & Pedestrian Path could soon be required to wear helmets.

The proposal, sponsored by Councilor Ben Tucker, will be aired during a public hearing at the Town Council meeting on Monday, Aug. 16. If adopted, it would require cyclists using the 2.6-mile path to wear head protection.

Riders who ignore the law would be subject to warnings and fines.

The ordinance change would affect only bicyclists using the path, not other areas. Tucker, during the council's July 26 meeting, said requiring helmets on the path would serve as an education tool.

"This seemed to make more sense, rather than pass an ordinance for the entire town and try to enforce it all at once," Tucker said.

The proposed ordinance would be enforced by the Brunswick Police Department, which has several bicycle patrol units during temperate months.

A first offense would result in a verbal warning. A $10 fine would accompany a second offense, a $50 fine a third infraction.

Tucker wasn't sure how police would track people who had been warned.

He said the ordinance is modeled after a state law, which requires riders under 16 to wear a helmet. Maine's law, one of 22 age-specific laws nationally, assess a fine of $25 for the second offense. The fine can be waived if riders produce proof they have purchased a helmet.

Most other state laws apply to children under 16. According to a 2008 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 14 states don't have bicycle helmet laws at all.

Maine's law was adopted in 1999, 12 years after California passed the first helmet law.

Tucker said the council's Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, a subcommittee of the Recreation Committee, has endorsed the proposal. So has Police Chief Richard Rizzo.

"The point is to get people wearing helmets on the bike path and to educate them about why it's important," Tucker said.

Tucker said the idea of an ordinance came after a constituent asked if the town could add helmets to painted cyclist stencils in town bike lanes. Helmeted stencils appear in other municipal bike lanes, such as the Bath.

The public hearing will take place at the meeting facility at 16 Station Ave.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net