All-Ages Helmet Laws for Bicycle Riders
Revised immediately upon receipt of new info.
|Bidwell Park, Chico|
for off road in middle & upper park
|City of Seymour|
|Chicago (messengers)||All ages|
|Louisville Extreme Park||All ages||2002|
|Sykesville *||All ages||1995|
|Kensington Metropark||All ages||1998|
|Starkville||All ages *||2010|
|St Louis County municipalities of:||- - -||- - -|
|Black Jack||All ages||2008|
|Calverton Park||All ages||2001|
|Creve Coeur||All ages||2000|
|Grantwood Village||All ages||2003|
|Sycamore Hills||All ages||2008|
|Town & Country||All ages||2002|
|Velda City||All ages||2006|
|Velda Village Hills||All ages||2005|
|Greenburgh *||All ages||1994|
|Rockland County *||All ages||1992|
|Black Mountain||All ages||1996|
|Shaker Heights||All ages over 5 inc. passengers||1997|
|Oklahoma City (City property only)||All ages||1999|
|Bainbridge Island||All ages||2001|
|Des Moines||All ages||1993|
|Gig Harbor||All ages||1996|
|Hunts Point||All ages||1993|
|Island County: (Recommendation only.)||All ages||1997|
|King County||All ages||1993|
|Milton||All ages *||1997|
|Pierce County||All ages||1994|
|Port Angeles||All ages||1994|
|Port Orchard||All ages||2004|
|Seatac||All ages over 1 yr||1999|
|Snohomish city-wide ordinance repealed||All ages||2002|
|Snohomish skate park only||All ages||2002|
|Spokane||All ages *||2004|
|Tacoma||All ages *||1994|
|University Place||All ages||1996|
|Vancouver||All ages||March 26, 2008|
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 hopes 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.
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!
This page was revised on: September 13, 2021.