Camas might get bike helmet law

Police chief proposes non-punitive ordinance with fines to not exceed $50

Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey presented an informational report on Monday to the Camas City Council of a draft bicycle helmet ordinance that would allow police officers to stop bicyclists who are not wearing a helmet, and, in some cases, issue a fine.

Currently, the city of Camas has no bicycle helmet ordinances.

The proposed ordinance is meant to start a conversation between riders and officers, rather than simply issue penalties, Lackey said, adding that not wearing a bike helmet is a safety matter.

The draft policy ordinance states that the penalty would not exceed $50.

If accepted by the city council, the ordinance would allow the court to waive, reduce or suspend the violation for a person who has not been cited with the same violation in the last year, and who provides proof that they have acquired an approved helmet at the time of their court appearance.

If a child is 11 years old or younger, their parent or guardian would be issued the violation, according to the proposed ordinance. For children ages 12 to 15, the violation could go straight to them, or be given to their parent or guardian.

Lackey said he guesses that about one to two tickets will be issued a year, based on statistics out of Vancouver, a city that already has a helmet ordinance and issues about 10 tickets a year.

“(The ordinance) legalizes the contact and gives valid reason for officers to stop riders and have a conversation, and in rare cases issue a ticket,” Lackey said.

The police chief found that other cities in the state follow a general ordinance that uses language to express that the health and safety of citizens is at the forefront of the legislation.

Lackey told The Post-Record in July that bad things happen when you least expect it.

Even small, low-speed accidents can be devastating when people aren’t wearing helmets, Lackey said.

“It doesn’t have to be a full face slam,” the police chief said in July. “We’ve seen accidents where people didn’t even hit their heads with a lot of force (and had severe injuries).”

That’s why the department encourages the wearing of helmets and gives out free helmets yearly.

Camas Mayor Scott Higgins said during the workshop that he most appreciates the non-punitive nature of the ordinance and that it would encourage the lowest fine possible.

The council will discuss the ordinance in a public meeting at a later date, possibly at the council’s Dec. 4 regular meeting.