By ERIN ROLL
If you’re wearing a helmet while riding your bicycle around Montclair this summer, you may get ticketed by the police – but it’s a very special kind of ticket.
The Montclair Police Department will begin issuing tickets for wearing their helmets while bike riding or skateboarding.
Police will also issue violations tickets for failure to wear a helmet. But either way you get rewarded.
“Tickets” for wearing your helmet can be redeemed for ice cream, comic books and other treats.
No fines will be imposed for failure to wear your helmet. A coupon to buy a helmet, at a 10 percent discount, at one of Montclair’s three local bike shops — Montclair Bikery, Pedal Montclair and Diamond Cycle — will instead be issued.
Other violations, that could land you a “ticket,” include not keeping to the right of the road, not having a bike registered with the township, or not having an audible signaling device such as a bell or a horn.
Under New Jersey state law, anyone aged 17 and under must wear a helmet while biking, skateboarding or roller skating/ blading. As adults are not required by state law to wear a helmet, the “tickets” will only be issued to minors.
The bike helmet rewards program, last held four years ago, has been resurrected this year, said Tracey Diamond, the local artist who designed the first redeemable tickets that the police gave out. “People were calling into the station or writing me saying how much fun it was,” she said. And it wasn’t just the children who loved it; the adults wanted to join in the fun as well, she said.
“I used to mountain bike a lot, and then when my two kids were little I would bike with them in the neighborhoods we have lived in, but we don’t bike anymore. However helmets and safety were always something I would make sure of,” Diamond said.
Montclair is a town where a lot of kids ride their bikes for fun or to get to and from school, she said. “Combine that with commuting traffic and distracted driving, it just became an instant reaction in me to want to do what I could to help make sure the kids here in town were being as safe as they could be, and what a great way to spread that message while having fun and getting the community involved.”
Lt. Tyrone Williams and Sgt. Travis Davis of the MPD’s Community Services Unit reached out to her again this year to design both the tickets of praise and tickets of disapproval.
“It is the hope of the Montclair Police Department that this initiative raises awareness to the dangers of riding without a helmet and improves overall safety throughout the township,” police said.
The tickets for rewards are from businesses in all four of Montclair’s business districts, and can be redeemed anytime before Dec. 31. The participating businesses include Joyist, Watchung Booksellers, Local Coffee, Gelotti, Amore Pizza, Sweet Home Montclair and Mahir’s Barbershop.
The violation tickets will be issued beginning mid-July, while the rewards tickets will be issued in August.
The timing was to give more people a chance to hear about the program, Diamond said.
Other communities, including along the Jersey Shore and in New Hampshire, use similar award ticket programs to raise awareness about the importance of helmets, she said.
From 2017 and 2019, Montclair Police only issued two summonses — both in 2019 — to minors not wearing helmets while bicycling.
For more information about the program, visit the Montclair Police Department’s website or contact the Community Services Unit at 973-509-4775.