Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

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All-Ages Helmet Laws for Bicycle Riders

Revised immediately upon receipt of new info.
For date of last revision see last line at the bottom.

Summary: Here are the all-ages helmet laws in the US. There is no federal law requiring bicycle helmets. The states and localities on our mandatory helmet laws page began adopting laws in 1987. Most are limited to children under 18, but there are 49 all-ages laws, about a quarter of the total. They are all local ordinances, not state laws. But states have begun passing electric bike laws with helmet requirements. See this page of ebike helmet laws for info on that. The non-ebike list is below.

Jurisdiction Ages Year
Montevallo All ages 1993
Montevallo All ages 1993
Homewood All ages 1994
Bidwell Park, Chico
for park
All ages 1991
City of Seymour
(Repealed 1998)
All ages 1998
Chicago (messengers) All ages
Louisville Extreme Park All ages 2002
Sykesville * All ages 1995
All ages 1998
Starkville All ages * 2010
St Louis County municipalities of: - - -
Bel-Ridge All ages 2002
Berkeley All ages 2000
Black Jack All ages 2008
Calverton Park All ages 2001
Creve Coeur All ages 2000
Glendale All ages 2008
Grantwood Village All ages 2003
Pagedale All ages 2002
Sycamore Hills All ages 2008
Town & Country All ages 2002
Velda City All ages 2006
Velda Village Hills All ages 2005
New York
Greenburgh * All ages 1994
Rockland County * All ages 1992
North Carolina
Black Mountain All ages 1996
Boone All ages 1995
Shaker Heights Over 5 1997
Oklahoma City
City property only
All ages 1999
Washington State
Aberdeen All ages 2001
Auburn All ages 2005
Bainbridge Island All ages 2001
Bellevue All ages 2002
Bremerton All ages 2000
Des Moines All ages 1993
DuPont All ages
Duvall All ages 1993
Eatonville All ages 1996
Enumclaw All ages 1993
Fircrest All ages 1995
Gig Harbor All ages 1996
Hunts Point All ages 1993
Island Co.
All ages 1997
Kent All ages 1999
King County All ages 1993
Lakewood All ages 1996
Milton All ages * 1997
Pierce County All ages 1994
Port Angeles All ages 1994
Port Orchard All ages 2004
Puyallup All ages 1994
Renton All ages 1999
Seatac All ages over 1 yr 1999
Seattle All ages 2003
All ages 2002
skate park
All ages 2002
Snoqualmie All ages 1996
Spokane All ages * 2004
Steilacoom All ages 1995
Tacoma Repealed
University Place All ages 1996
Vancouver All ages March 26, 2008
West Virginia
Morgantown All ages 1993
* May have been superseded by state law.

This is a US list. For countries outside the US please see below.

That's a total of 49 laws (not including the two that have been repealed).

The Dallas all-ages law was changed in June, 2014 after 18 years and now applies only to riders under 18. The impetus was the establishment of a shared bicycle program, whose promoters believed a strictly-enforced all-ages law would severely restrict their program. A local newspaper reported that the majority of the citations had been handed out in poor, minority neighborhoods, leading to charges that the law was not evenly applied. A Dallas Morning News article showed that few citations had been handed out to younger riders. And this study indicates that the proportion of head injuries may rise in Dallas, although any effect on injury rates remains to be seen.

King County, Washington, mounted a comprehensive safety program with many elements, including their all-ages helmet law. They brought their child deaths down by 62 percent over a nine year period.

Many bicycle clubs, the US racer's organizing body, USA Cycling and the Triathlon Federation require helmets in their events, although they may or may not support helmet laws. Touring organizations like Adventure Cycling usually require them for tour riders. U.S. military regulations require helmets on military facilities.

In Australia, bicycle helmets are mandatory in all states and territories for all ages. Compliance is high but varies by area, with some cities over 90% and rural areas much lower. In the State of Victoria cyclists' head injuries declined 41%. There were 36% fewer child riders on the road, immediately after the legislation passed, but perhaps more adult riders. Changes in ridership may or may not have been related to the passage of the laws, and the road culture in Australia is unique to that country. (No similar effects have ever been documented in the US.) Injury reduction was below expectations, but still spectacular. Hospital data from Western Australia showed that the number of intracranial injuries was cut in half with increased helmet use, while head injuries were less serious, and hospital stays shorter. There is more analysis in this journal article and this followup article. In a survey done in 2011, those who do not ride a bike for transport cited road safety and traffic as their main concerns, with about 16% saying helmets deter them, ranking number 13 in the list. In 2011 a film maker in Brisbane produced this anti-helmet law video for an organization called helmetfreedom.org that hoped to repeal the Queensland law. In 2012 this study of long term bicycle related head injury trends for New South Wales found indicators that cycling has increased and head injuries have dropped over time. Posting comments on this blog the critics continue to debate.

New Zealand's national helmet law took effect in January, 1994. This study shows that although cyclists' injuries increased in the years thereafter, head injuries declined.

In 2011 Switzerland considered a helmet law as part of a package to reduce road deaths, but the Transportation Committee of the National Council reportedly rejected the recommendation.

Canada has provincial and local helmet laws. British Columbia's 1996 all-ages law was very successful in increasing helmet use, according to an evaluation project for this law conducted by the University of North Carolina. It showed substantial increases in helmet use after the law was passed. There are exceptions to the law for medical exemptions, those with heads larger than size 8 (manufacturers had not yet begun producing the extra extra large helmets available today) and those whose religion requires headgear that makes helmets impossible (primarily Sikhs). Nova Scotia's law came into effect in 1997 and covers all ages. New Brunswick also has an all-ages law. In Quebec, the Montreal suburbs of Cote Saint-Luc and Westmount have passed by-laws requiring the use of bicycle helmets within their boundaries. In October, 1997, the Cote Saint-Luc law was extended to cover bicyclists and skaters of all ages. Prince Edward Island's law was effective on July 5, 2003, and covers all ages. A 2015 law in Newfoundland and Labrador requires all cyclists of any age to wear a helmet.

Dubai adopted an all-ages mandatory helmet law in 2010. The fine for not wearing a helmet is 500 dirhams, about $136 US.

Finland passed a mandatory helmet law with an effective date of January, 2003. It covers all ages, but there is no fine associated with breaking the law.

Spain adopted a mandatory helmet law for cycling outside of cities in 2004. Helmets are not compulsory in towns and may be removed while climbing steep hills. In addition, Spain adopted a mandatory helmet law for riders under 17 in March of 2014.

Mexico City briefly adopted a mandatory helmet law, but an article on the European Bicycle Federation site said they repealed it in February of 2010 in an effort to support their shared bicycle rental program, Ecobici. We have more comments on our page on shared bicycle programs.

In April of 2003 the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announced that it intended to make helmet use compulsory in the professional races it sanctions. The ruling has stuck this time (in 1991 an compulsory helmet rule was rejected by the riders). It followed several well-publicized deaths, including that of Kazakh rider Andrei Kivilev. Kivilev died of a head injury without a helmet. The impetus for the ruling had also grown since a helmeted rider fell on a turn at an intersection in a rainy Dutch stage of the Tour de France and hit his head on a concrete bollard in the center of the road, but to the astonishment of the crowd got up and raced away. In 2004 the UCI even extended its requirement for impact protection to the teardrop-shaped "chrono" helmets the riders use in time trials for better aerodynamics. The rule has an exemption for elite riders in climbs of more than 5 km.

Our View

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute supports carefully drawn mandatory helmet laws covering all age groups because we believe they are needed to raise awareness that helmets save lives, in the same way that seatbelt laws and smoke detector requirements were used to inform the public that those safety devices were necessary. Many riders and parents do not know that they need a helmet, and the laws educate as much as they force compliance. We also believe that most riders regard helmets as a fashion item rather than as a safety appliance, and like any other fashion this one may wane. We support efforts to improve the safety of the cycling environment to reduce the need for helmets, and that should always be regarded as the primary injury prevention measure for reducing all injuries to cyclists. We do not believe that wearing a helmet causes riders to take additional risks. We believe that in this country promoting helmets will not detract from the effort to improve road safety, and in fact has stimulated those efforts, giving us the most widespread and best-supported campaigns for better road safety for cyclists that we have ever had in our history. We are keenly aware that safer cycling requires more riders on the streets, but we do not believe that helmets discourage cycling in the US. Since bicycles on a public road are vehicles, we believe that the operator has the rights and obligations of vehicle users in our ever-more-populated and outrageously unsafe road environment, so requiring a bicycle helmet is as reasonable as requiring a helmet on a motorcycle rider or requiring seatbelt usage in cars. We would support provisions for medical exemptions based on a doctor's certification or religious requirements for headgear.

We have always been a lot more enthusiastic about promoting voluntary use of helmets than promoting laws, and it would appear from the list above that most U.S. states and localities are too. Even seatbelt laws that have been around for a long time are mostly secondary offense laws limiting enforcement to occasions when a driver has been stopped for something else. Helmet laws can be useful, but given the problems with enforcing them they will probably not work well in most places until more riders have accepted the need for wearing a helmet. So we favor a stronger push for voluntary usage than for passing new helmet laws, and our website has always reflected that attitude.

At present the pace of new helmet laws has slowed to almost zero, with the exception of helmet requirements in electric bike laws. Attempts to extend laws to cover adults have been unsuccessful. Urban riders are increasingly questioning the need for helmets, and certainly the need for helmet laws. WABA, our parent organization, has taken a position opposing the extension of the Maryland state helmet law to adults. A pendulum is swinging. We expect it to swing back eventually as injuries show up, but the positive experience with shared bicycle programs has raised basic questions about the need for helmets, and younger riders are reconsidering. We regard all that as a fashion trend and remain convinced that bike riders need helmets.

We do not participate in the endless Internet "Helmet Wars," among a small group of posters in blogs and social media, but we have a web page up discussing some of the recurring points.

If you see outdated information on this page, please inform us by email. This is a difficult page to keep current!