The Bicycle Helmet Busy Bodies are Back

Blog, Healthcare & Welfare, Peter Holle

Manitoba’s Minister of Healthy Living (?!?) is under pressure to introduce a bicycle helmet law in Manitoba. The law of unintended consequences, which says that some new law or policy change will produce the opposite effect of what is intended, immediately comes to mind.

Manitoba is replete with examples of adverse unintended consequences from well-meaning (naive?) policy changes. Some classic examples come to mind. First, rent control brought in to help the poor instead harms them by collapsing the supply of affordable apartment units. Second, the introduction of a government car insurance monopoly ends up raising the cost of insurance and reducing benefits compared to the normal competitive insurance market.  Finally, there is Manitoba’s tragicomedy environmental file where a recent ban of grey water septic fields in White Shell Provincial Park has led to overflowing sewage lagoons and ongoing raw sewage spills into the Winnipeg river system.

So how does passing a bicycle helmet law fit into the unintended consequences file? Apparently, it discourages people from the virtuous activity of cycling, meaning less exercise, higher obesity and more use of cars which emit more demon greenhouse gases etc.

Optics are good, results are bad. Much of our political class is blissfully unaware that we are moving into a time where the activities of government will need to shrink, become smarter and more focused. Having police hunting down flouters of the helmet law and expanding the regulatory/bureaucratic machinery to manage our bike riding habits is simply more excess to be swept away down the road.