Will helmets be mandatory for Buffalo Grove bicyclists?

Buffalo Grove officials are discussing an ordinance that would require bicyclists to wear a helmet when riding in the village.

The proposal, initially brought before the village board for discussion on Monday, will go to the village's Health Commission for further review and recommendations.

An advocate for bicyclists said Buffalo Grove could be the first municipality in Illinois to pass such an ordinance.

Village Trustee Steven Trilling first raised the issue, saying he was acting upon a request from a resident who is a registered nurse at Glenbrook Hospital.

He emphasized that he is not advocating for mandatory helmets, but merely looking for some guidance. At this point, he said, all options are open - including restricting the helmet requirement to only riders under a certain age. A similar proposal in 1995 failed to gain support, he added.

Trilling said is well aware of the safety benefits of helmets, having been injured when he crashed while riding his bicycle along the lakefront in Chicago. He hit a caved in portion of pavement, went flying and broke his elbow.

"Whether I would have hurt myself worse by not wearing a helmet remains to be seen, but I think the helmet certainly limited the injuries that I had," said Trilling, who is the liaison to the village's bicycle committee.

The idea of a mandatory helmet ordinance drew a mixed response from other village board members.

Trustee Andrew Stein questioned how it would be enforced, and noted that Illinois doesn't even require motorcyclists to wear helmets. He suggested that the village board ask the Health Commission to come up with more bicycle safety programs.

"But I'm really not in favor of creating an ordinance that we can't enforce or would be near impossible to enforce," Stein said.

Others said they were open to examining the issue further.

"Even if we think it might be difficult to enforce, I don't think that's a reason not to pursue what Trustee Trilling has suggested, which is to look at this and then see what can be done and how best we can do it," Trustee Dave Weidenfeld said.

Village President Beverly Sussman recalls the unsuccessful 1995 effort to require helmets, saying it came up after a student was hit by a car outside the school where she taught.

"Our principal asked that it be put on the agenda. And it has taken a very long time for it to come back. I think it's an excellent idea," she said.

Ed Barsotti, executive director of Ride Illinois, an advocacy group formerly known as The League of Illinois Bicyclists, said he's not aware of any other town that requires helmets for bicyclists. Similar measures have gone nowhere in the state legislature.

In states where there are helmet laws, he said, they usually apply to children.

Barsotti said that while helmets should be worn, helmet use should not be legislated.

"The route of encouragement and education is still the way to go on that," he said.

Buffalo Grove resident Sheri Rosenbaum serves as vice president and ride chair of the Wheeling Wheelmen, a cycling club with members from the Buffalo Grove area. The group works with the Buffalo Grove Police Department on its annual bike rodeo, and requires its members to wear helmets on rides.

She said that children at least should be required to wear helmets.

"But I think everybody should wear them, because it does protect you when you do fall, no matter what speed," Rosenbaum added. "I see people fall in the parking lot before leaving for a ride, so it's like putting on a seat belt. You don't know when you're going to get in an accident."

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