New Albany law now requires children to wear helmets while riding bicycles and other forms of transportation -- or they and their parents could face a fine.

New Albany law now requires children to wear helmets while riding bicycles and other forms of transportation -- or they and their parents could face a fine.

New Albany City Council on March 15 voted 5-0, with Glyde Marsh and Stephen Pleasnick absent, to approve the ordinance.

According to the measure, verbal warnings will be given during the first six months after the ordinance takes effect April 14.

After that, anyone under 18 riding a bicycle, scooter, skateboard, roller skates or any "low-horsepower motorized vehicle" without a helmet will be given a warning by police on his or her first offense. Second offenders will be required to pay a $25 fine. A $50 fine will be fined for each subsequent offense.

The law also applies to passengers.

Local nonprofit organization Healthy New Albany came up with the ordinance after Dr. Howard Jacobs of Nationwide Children's Hospital spoke with former Mayor Nancy Ferguson and Healthy New Albany founder Phil Heit.

Jacobs, who addressed City Council, said the law was intended to be educational and positive in its message.

"In our city, we promote a healthy lifestyle, and while it is great to see so many kids on bicycles, way too many are riding without helmets," he said.

Mayor Sloan Spalding shared a personal story during the March 15 meeting about a bicycle accident he had in 2011 while training for the Pelotonia charity tour. He said he hit the ground head first and cracked his helmet in two.

"Without that helmet, I'm not sure I would be here this evening," he said.

Spalding said the city is trying to mirror a similar Columbus ordinance and urged City Council members to approve the law.

He said he understands that some community members might be hesitant about the government telling them what to do.

"But every parent I've talked to, without question, has said, 'Please pass this law,' " Spalding said.

New Albany resident Tamara Davies agreed.

"Kids should be wearing helmets on bikes," she said.

Her daughter, Regan, always wears a helmet when riding her bike, Davies said.

When Davies' husband is cycling longer distances, he wears one, too, she said, though she admitted on shorter bike rides, she sometimes doesn't wear a helmet herself.

Davies said the law would help parents know their kids will wear a helmet while riding, even if they don't see them leave the house. The law also means the message to wear a helmet doesn't just have to come from parents alone.

New Albany resident Ross LaPerna, however, did not agree.

He said the city's police department has bigger things to worry about, such as drugs in school and traffic, than enforcing a helmet law.

"I just don't see bike helmets as a priority," LaPerna said.

LaPerna called the law "ridiculous" and said City Council has no business enforcing what children should or should not wear while riding bicycles or other vehicles.

Additionally, the interaction with police could make children afraid of officers, he said.

"It's a 'nanny state' run amok," he said.

Free helmets

Also during the March 15 meeting, Heit announced Healthy New Albany would hold Bicycle Helmet Day from 10 a.m. to noon April 16 at the Philip Heit Center for Healthy New Albany, 150 W. Main St.

Five hundred free helmets will be distributed, he said, and riders can learn about proper fit and how to wear helmets properly.