At the top of the Sun’s Sound Off column on page 2 today, we have published a comment from a reader who takes issue with one of our published pictures.
On the front page of yesterday’s paper, we printed an image of one boy on a bicycle towing a second boy on a skateboard, both of whom were not wearing a helmet, as Manitoba law demands.
In response to the image, the reader made the following comment:
“I have noticed over the summer that you have posted several pictures of kids on bikes without helmets ... It would be nice to see kids on bikes wearing their helmet and following the law.”
The reader also recounts some of the wording of Manitoba’s bicycle helmet law, and noted that the law came into effect on May 1 of this year.
To the reader, we say that had the children in question been wearing helmets, that would have appeared in the paper as well. The fact that someone happens to be breaking the law — whether an adult or a child — will not dissuade us from publishing a photo.
The images we print on a daily basis, both in the pages of the Sun and online, are depictions of our community as our photographers and sometimes reporters have seen it. That means when we see young boys having some fun on a warm summer evening, our photographers will take the shot, as one did earlier this week. And if it’s a really good shot, it will likely end up on our front page or somewhere else in the paper.
As an aside, since May 1, the Sun has published a total of nine photographs in the pages of our daily paper and in our Community News editions that depict children riding a bicycle. In only four cases, the kids were riding without helmets.
Part of our job as a newspaper is to reflect a true and accurate picture of our community, whether it be something as innocuous as a child on a bicycle who’s not wearing a helmet, a person walking down a train track, or something more dramatic, such as the scene of a vehicle collision or a fight at a hockey game — these are pictures of reality.
It’s up to all parents and Manitoba residents to educate themselves and understand the laws of this province, and to then follow them. We shouldn’t have to remind them of that fact every single time we publish a photo of a kid on a bike, with or without a helmet.
If we extended that kind of policy to an extreme, we would always remind readers to slow down and not drink and drive when we print a picture of a collision. In reality, that’s just not going to happen — it’s just too obvious.
That said, we are certainly in favour of children wearing helmets in this province, and as we have said before on this page, we believe Manitoba’s helmet law was a long time in coming.
And the reader does make a good point in that it’s worth reminding Manitobans that the law exists. So let’s do that now:
• Provincial law demands cyclists under 18 wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet when they are cycling. Further, the helmet law applies to children under 18 when they are passengers on a bicycle or riding anything that is attached to and being towed by a bicycle.
• Parents or guardians are responsible for making sure children wear bicycle helmets. If your child is under 14 and is caught cycling without a helmet, you can be ticketed under the Highway Traffic Act. Teenagers between 14 and 18 can be fined directly.
• And if you don’t want to pay the $63.10 fine for the first time your child receives a ticket, you have the option of taking the Manitoba Bike Helmet Safety Course at bikehelmetcourse.ca.
And we can place this kind of reminder where it belongs — in a story or on the editorial page, as we have just done.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 13, 2013