Monday, November 24, 2008
Motorcycling families not welcome in Ontario
This past summer, I met a family of 4 riding a Kawasaki Vulcan (I think it was) with a sweet little sidecar rig in which their two children (aged about 3 and 5) sat side by side while mom rode pillion. The kids were helmeted, belted into individual seats, and the sidecar had a cover to protect them from rain, wind, road dirt, etc. They had a radio and lots of colouring books and other diversions to keep them occupied when not watching the scenery go by. It was safe, comfortable, fun, and possibly soon illegal in Ontario.
The Government of Ontario has a Private Member’s Bill, Bill 117, in process that would prohibit any licensed motorcycle operator from carrying anyone under the age of 14 years as a passenger. If enacted, taking your son or daughter for a ride before s/he reaches the magical age of 14 will get you charged. Going for a family outing with the wee ones in a sidecar will get you charged. Teaching your kids responsible motorcycling will get you charged.
There has been surprisingly little attention paid to this in the mainstream media, but the Toronto Star did give it some good coverage here. The e-zine Motorcycle Mojo also carried the story and a number of bloggers have taken up the fight with online petitions and entreaties to contact the Provincial Government to condemn this bill.
This all came about because a total of 199 children (up to age 15) were injured in motorcycle “accidents” over the course of a 10-year period ending in 2005. There is no breakdown of the nature of injuries, so they could include anything – a burned leg from a hot exhaust pipe, scrapes from falling off dad’s bike in the garage, riding the family dirt bike off the dock at the cottage. In fact, there have been NO statistics reported that show any significant incidence of young passengers, riding with their parents, being injured while on a motorcycle. In short, THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM!
Lest non-Ontario readers suspect that the province is currently the wild west of motorcycling where anything goes, there are already laws in place that require the wearing of a suitable, properly fitted helmet, as well as some reasonable restrictions such as all passengers must have foot rests and be able to reach them.
However, politicians, like nature, abhor a vacuum and this politician discovered that, gasp!, there was no law in place to restrict carrying passengers under the age of 14. “The legislation is silent on the topic of motorcycle passengers," she said. So rather than worrying about the economy, or Ontario’s auto industry going down the tubes, or the fact that Ontario is one of the heaviest users of highly-polluting coal-fired power plants in North America, or world peace, she decided to jump right in there and correct this terrible, terrible oversight.
My letters to Dalton McGuinty, Helena Jaczek and my local member of parliament have already gone. Add yours to the list.