March 7, 2011

Bike Helmets Are Not Optional



Girl Riding a Bike

Today I’m going to go on a tiny rant. Spring is starting to peek through here in the Valley of the Sun. Families are out and about, those bikes that sat with big bows under the Christmas tree are showing up on the street, sidewalks and parks. And therein lies my problem.

CycleGuy rides a road bike. He wears a helmet. It’s never a second thought. A helmet is part of his bike uniform, just like shoes and the padded shorts. When I ride a bike, the helmet goes on regardless of the fact that it would mess up my hair. No helmet, no cycling. It’s very simple.

When BabyGirl got her outside bike she got a helmet to go with it. As she’s grown we’ve made sure we keep it in check and make sure it always fits properly. No helmet, no cycling. She doesn’t even ask if wearing helmet is an option.

So it gets me riled up when I see kids riding a bike without a helmet. Actually, I get agitated seeing anyone on a bike without a helmet because I know that the risks of traumatic brain injury are huge. Many sports require a helmet. And I’m certain that these same parents would never permit their kids to play football or hockey without a helmet. But when it comes to riding a bike, it drives me nuts that parents or grandparents or any adult for that matter think a helmet is optional. Especially for a child.

A few years ago CycleGuy was hit by a car. Fortunately he wasn’t severely injured. But for weeks he had a severe headache from when his head hit the car and the ground. Had it not been for his helmet – which was cracked and partially crushed – I can only imagine what would have happened. So don’t think for a minute I, or Babygirl, would ever ride a bike without a helmet.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, bicycle helmets are 88% effective in preventing serious brain injury. Yet fewer than half of all bicycle riders wear one. Teens are less likely to wear a helmet than adults. And who blames them? They see adults not wearing a bike helmet, so they think why should they.

This is a perfect example of ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Yes, I am the screamy one in the car grumbling at parents who are bike riding with their kids and the kids have a helmet but the parents don’t. What message does that send to the kids? No wonder tweens and teens see bike helmets as optional as they get older.

Did you know that only 21 states and the District of Columbia have bicycle helmet laws. And none of these laws apply to anyone over 17. Only 21 states! Less than half of the states have any law requiring bicycle riders to wear a bike helmet.

I know helmets can be expensive, especially when you’re buying for several kids and adults. On the low end a child’s bike helmet can cost $20. Just make sure it meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines. Adult helmets are even more. It adds up quickly. And I’m not even talking about the fancy ones CycleGuy has that are, uh, well over $20.

But did you know that many children’s hospitals offer them for free? As do many police or sheriff agencies. In addition, the Brain Injury Law Center has a free bike helmet program. So there should be no reason not to get your child a bike helmet. It may take some legwork, but if you want one and it’s beyond your budget to get one, you can likely find resources in your community.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. And as I tell BabyGirl, remember that between you and a car, the car will always win. Wear a bike helmet when cycling!

Do you wear a bike helmet when your ride your bike? If not, why? Do you make your kids wear one? All the time? Do you think more states should have bike helmet laws?




CycleGuy March 7, 2011 at 11:56 am

If people this this is a rant, then shame on them. Helmets are not an option what age you are, it saved my life, in fact I walked away and did not need to go to the hospital because I was wearing it. If you get to one person who changes their behavior each time you rant about it, its worth upsetting a few along the way, because you are saving lives!

AllieZirkle March 8, 2011 at 7:17 am

Amen! I’m so with you on this. I’m a big believer in helmets. I moved from North San Diego (beach town!) where kids wear them and the parents don’t to Surprise where NO ONE wears a helmet- save for my kiddos. Why oh why aren’t helmets worn? I’m with ya, bike = helmet.

🙂 Allie

Tanya March 8, 2011 at 6:25 pm

My kids also don’t even ask if they have to wear a helmet, because no helmet= no bike riding. But they are the only kids in the entire neighborhood who wear helmets and the kids often act like my kids are weird for doing so. Its a shame. But at the same time there are also parents in my neighborhood who do not trap their small children into car seats. Both safety precautions are so easy and can prevent serious injury and death. What kind of parent just doesn’t care? I don’t get it.

Dave March 10, 2011 at 5:16 am

I get riled up when I see kids traveling in cars without a helmet. Actually, I get agitated seeing anyone driving without a helmet because I know that the risks of traumatic brain injury are just as high for motorists as they are for cyclists and pedestrians. When I see a parent driving their kids to soccer without a helmet on, I wonder what kind of parent they are not to care.

The funny thing is, the rest of the world manages to ride bikes without helmets and without huge increases in head injuries. In fact, you are 5 times safer riding in Europe without a helmet than riding with one on in the US. Is this because American heads are so much different or because Europeans focus limiting the danger caused by cars?

If you want your kids to wear a helmet, thats great. If they do fall off, I’m sure you’ll be happier with them wearing one than not. But if you are really concerned about your kids health and safety, make sure they drive less and ride more. Almost 40,000 Americans died in car crashes last year and hundreds of thousands died from obesity related diseases.

Sam Moyer March 21, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I am having a problem right now getting my 14 year old to wear a helmet. I think they just aren’t cool to wear in the minds of the kids. When he was five, he had his helmet on and had an accident, forgetting to use his brakes, going down a hill and running right into our metal mailbox. The helmet had a deep six inch gash in it and we had to get a new one. Without thqt helmet I know things would have been much worse, perhaps even fatal. I was so thankful for the helmet.

Sara March 21, 2011 at 4:05 pm


Thanks for stopping by. I’m so glad that your son had a helmet on when he was younger. That must have have been traumatic as a parent, even though the helmet did its job. I know that the independence of teens often makes wearing a helmet a no-go because mom/dad said so. Also, it’s not fashionable. And if other kids get away w/o wearing one it’s better to fit in and not be the ‘geek’.

I really wish some cool teens would do a PSA about wearing a helmet. Maybe then the tide will turn.

How can we make it cool to wear a helmet?

I’ll keep thinking!


JD May 27, 2011 at 5:48 am

You know what drives me nuts? Seeing a kid with a helmet right alongside an adult without one. I see this far more often than kids without helmets.

JD May 27, 2011 at 5:50 am

Oh, sorry. I didn’t even read the whole thing before commenting.

ben brugman April 5, 2013 at 1:54 am

The number of fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per year is in the USA 12.3 in the Netherlands it is 3.9. One of the attributing reasons for this low number is, that in the Netherlands the bicycle is one of the main methods for transportation.

Making the usage of a helmet on a bicycle obligatory, will drive more people from the bike to a car, probably driving up the number of fatalities. So a helmet law would not decrease the number of fatalities, but would increase the number of fatalities.

There are more negative effects of making the helmet obligatory as well.
ben brugman

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