City commissioners are taking a positive approach to encouraging young bike riders to wear helmets.
A carrot often is better than a stick, and the approach Lawrence city commissioners took Tuesday night to try to get children to wear bicycle helmets seemed like the right strategy.
Commissioners approved an ordinance making it illegal for children under 16 years old to ride a bicycle without a helmet, but rather than haul them off to jail or make them pay a fine, officers will give youthful violators a coupon good for a free bike helmet. The message is a good one. It says we care about your safety; we're not just out to catch you doing something wrong.
It's a message that will be useful not only to children but also to parents who might be looking for a way to put some clout behind their demand that children wear helmets. Even though there is no punishment, wearing a helmet now is the law, which may make an impression on youngsters who don't understand the dangers of riding a bicycle without a protective helmet.
Adults also could help by setting a good example. Although they may not have grown up with bicycle helmets, it's rare to see an adult cycling enthusiast riding without one now. They know how quickly an accident can occur and how serious it can be, especially without head protection.
The police department may have to beef up its budget for bicycle helmets once local youngsters get the idea. The demand for new helmets may be high, but it's all for a very worthy cause, the safety of Lawrence children.