Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
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Bicycle Helmet Laws

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

Summary: There is no federal law in the U.S. requiring bicycle helmets. The states and localities below began adopting laws in 1987. Most are limited to children under 18, but there are 49 all-ages laws, broken out on our all-ages page. At present, 22 States including the District of Columbia have state-wide laws, and more than 201 localities have local ordinances. Riders of electric bikes are required in some states listed on this page in detail and noted below to wear helmets. More info on helmet laws follows the list.

Alabama *
State lawUnder 161995
State ebike
All ages
MontevalloAll ages1993
HomewoodAll ages1994
AnchorageUnder 162005
BethelUnder 18 2004
JuneauUnder 18 2006
KenaiUnder 162004
SitkaUnder 182005
FlagstaffUnder 182010
Pima CountyUnder 181995
Sierra VistaUnder 181995
TucsonUnder 181993
YumaUnder 181997
State ebike
law Class 3
Under 21
State lawPassenger
under 5
State lawRider
under 18
State law Under 18
* Scooters,
State ebike
Under 18
Class 3
all ages
Bidwell Park,
off road in
middle &
upper park
All ages 1991
State lawUnder 161993/
State ebike lawUnder 16
Class 3
all ages
City of Seymour
(Repealed 1998)
All ages1998
State lawUnder18*1996
State ebike lawUnder 18
District of Columbia
District LawUnder16*2000/
District ebike lawUnder 16
State lawUnder16**1997
State ebike lawUnder 16
State lawUnder 161993
State ebike lawUnder 16
Class 3
all ages
State lawUnder 162001
State ebike lawUnder 16
BarringtonUnder 171997
All ages
CiceroUnder 161997
InvernessUnder 161999
Skokie Under 162002
State ebike
law Class 3
Under 18
Louisville (Parks)Under18*2002
All ages2002
State lawUnder 122002
State ebike
law Class 3
All ages
State lawUnder 161999
State ebike
Under 16
State lawUnder 16 *1995
State ebike
Under 16
Allegany CountyUnder 161992
Howard CountyUnder 161990
Montgomery CountyUnder 181991
SykesvilleAll ages1995
State lawPassenger
under 5
State lawRider
under 17 *
State ebike
All ages
State ebike
law Class 3
Under 16
AdrianUnder 151998
E. Grand RapidsUnder 181995
All ages1998
JacksonAll ages?2013
Ridgeland??? 2010
StarkvilleAll ages *2010
St Louis Co.1 to 16 *
Some areas
St Louis Co.
BallwinUnder 172006
Bel-RidgeAll ages2002
Bella VillaUnder 172005
Under 172005
BerkeleyAll ages2000
Black JackAll ages2008
All ages2001
ChesterfieldUnder 172008
ClaytonUnder 172005
Creve CoeurAll ages2000
EllisvilleUnder 172005
FlorissantUnder 172003
GlendaleAll ages2008
All ages2003
Hanley HillsUnder 172007
HazelwoodUnder 172007
Moline AcresUnder 172008
NormandyUnder 172004
NorthwoodsUnder 172003
Norwood Ct.Under 172004
OlivetteUnder 17*2005
OverlandUnder 172005
PagedaleAll ages2002
RiverviewUnder 172008
Rock HillUnder 172003
St. JohnUnder 172001
All ages2008
Town &
All ages2002
Velda CityAll ages2006
Velda Village HillsAll ages2005
Under 212001
Under 172004
Wilber ParkUnder 172005
WildwoodUnder 172005
St Louis Co
Under 172001
- - - - - - - - -
St CharlesUnder 162006
BillingsUnder 162001
Under 172001
Under 172002
State lawUnder 162006
State ebike
Under 16
Class 3
under 18
New Jersey
State lawUnder17*1992/
State ebike
Under 17
New Mexico
State lawUnder18*2007
State ebike lawUnder 18
Los Alamos
Under 181995
New York
State lawPassenger
under 5
State lawRider
under 14*
Erie County
All ages1993
GreenburghAll ages1994
GuilderlandUnder 141992
Under 182001
Rockland Co.All ages1992
Suffolk Co.14 to 172000
North Carolina
State lawUnder 162001
State ebike
Under 16
All ages1996
BooneAll ages1995
Under 161994
CarrboroUnder 161997
CaryUnder 162001
Under 161992
GreenvilleUnder 161998
MatthewsUnder 162001
State ebike
law Class 3
All ages
AkronUnder 162001
BeachwoodUnder 161990
BexleyUnder 162010
Blue AshUnder 162003
BrecksvilleUnder 18 *1998
BrooklynUnder 142001
CentervilleUnder 181999
DaytonUnder 132004
EuclidUnder 142001
KetteringUnder 16 *2004
LakewoodUnder 181997
Under 182000
All ages
South EuclidUnder 142000
StrongsvilleUnder 121993
NormanUnder 182003
All ages1999
State lawUnder16*1994
State ebike
Under 16
State lawRider
under 12
State ebike
Under 12
State lawUnder16*1996/
State ebike
Under 16
State lawUnder 161994/
State ebike
Under 16
ClarksvilleUnder 16
Class 3
all ages
ArlingtonUnder 181997
AustinUnder 181996/
BedfordUnder 161996
BenbrookUnder 171996
CoppellUnder 151997
DallasUnder 181996/
Fort WorthUnder 181996
HoustonUnder 181995
SouthlakeUnder 151999
State ebike
law Class 3
All ages
Albemarle CountyUnder 15
AlexandriaUnder 151994
Amherst Co.Under 151993
Arlington Co.Under 151993
BlacksburgUnder 151994
Clarke Co.Under 15
Fairfax Co.Under 151993
Fairfax CityUnder 152016
Falls ChurchUnder 151993
Floyd CountyUnder 15
Front RoyalUnder 151996
HamptonUnder 151999
HarrisonburgUnder 15
James City
Under 151999
LurayUnder 15
ManassasUnder 151995
Under 151997
Under 151997
NorfolkUnder 152001
Orange Co.Under 15
PetersburgUnder 152000
William Co.
Under 151995
RadfordUnder 152000
Roanoke Under 152000
SalemUnder 152000
Stafford Co.Under 15
ViennaUnder 15
Under 151995
Under 152001
WiseUnder 15
York Co.Under 151994
Washington State
AberdeenAll ages2001
AuburnAll ages2005
All ages2001
BellevueAll ages2002
BremertonAll ages2000
Des MoinesAll ages1993
DuPontAll ages
DuvallAll ages1993
EatonvilleAll ages1996
EnumclawAll ages1993
FircrestAll ages1995
Gig HarborAll ages1996
Hunts PointAll ages1993
Island Co.
(Rec. only.)
All ages1997
KentAll ages1999
King CountyAll ages1993
LakewoodAll ages1996
MiltonAll ages *1997
OrtingUnder 171997
Pierce Co.All ages1994
Port AngelesAll ages1994
Port OrchardAll ages2004
PoulsboUnder 18 1995
PuyallupAll ages 1994
RentonAll ages 1999
SeatacAll ages over 1 yr1999
SeattleAll ages2003
All ages2002
skate park
All ages2002
Snoqualmie All ages1996
SpokaneAll ages *2004
Steilacoom All ages1995
in 2020
All ages *1994
All ages1996
VancouverAll ages2008
W. Virginia
State lawUnder 151996
State ebike
law Class 1,3
Under 15
ClarksburgUnder 181993
MorgantownAll ages1993
S.CharlestonUnder 181994
St. AlbansUnder 181995
Under 171997

See this page for ebike helmet laws.

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

* Also covers electric bicycles or one or more non-bicycle wheeled vehicles: in-line skates, roller skates, skateboarders, non-motorized scooters. There are other laws that cover them too, but we don't have the info on all of them yet. New Mexico was the first to include tricycle riders. The ebike list is on a separate page.

** Florida permitted counties to opt out. Three initially did so, but now have all rescinded their exceptions. Private property (a driveway, for example) was excluded but all roads and trails are covered.

*** Jackson, MS law exempts riders who are riding in a cul- de-sac or dead end street in a residential area.

**** Virginia's state enabling legislation permits localities to adopt laws covering only children under the age of 15. Although as shown by the blanks we do not have official confirmation in every case, all of the Virginia laws we have found specify "fourteen and younger." (shown as under 15 in our table)

That's a total of 22 states (including the District of Columbia as a "state") and at least 202 local laws. Only 13 states have no state or local helmet laws at all. (Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming)

These are bicycle helmet laws. As noted, we often do not have good info on what laws cover skaters, scooter users, Segways, ebikes or other conveyances, although where known we have a * indicating that. In 2018 the State of Connecticut was the first to pass an electric bicycle law that requires helmets on e-bikes for all ages. Other states are adopting similar laws promoted by People for Bikes.

Here is the same list by date that the law became effective.

We update our page periodically by searching those local municipal and County codes that are available on the web. You can do that for your community at Municode.com if your own code is posted. Washington State codes are found at Municipal Research Services Center of Washington. Aside from the published codes, our sources are community residents who email us to tell us about their law.

We also have another page with more info on mandatory helmet laws, including copies of some of them. And we have a page for anyone writing a new law suggesting language on standards. We recommend looking at the Hernando, MS, law passed in 2010 as one that covers all the bases and has up-to-date language on standards.

The National Traffic Safety Board has made an unprecedented study of bicycle injuries and countermeasures, announced in 2019. They recommend major improvements in almost all of the elements that make up the bicyclist environment, and also the passage of all-ages helmet laws. An early press release in November 2019 said the study will be available soon.

If you are lobbying for a law, the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has produced this unique Ohio Youth Bicycle Helmet Ordinance Toolkit. "Assisting local communities in educating decision makers on the importance of a youth bicycle helmet law."

To search the web for details on state and local laws, we recommend this page on the League of American Bicyclists site.

Here is a map of the US highlighting the states with helmet laws.

State and local helmet laws now apply in states that include more than half of the total population of the US, but actually a much smaller portion of the population is covered, less than 15 per cent, due to age limitations of the laws. Laws have been proposed and may be either defeated or in some stage of the legislative process in a number of other states. In 2020 that includes at least Kentucky. And a proposed NY State law targeted at New York City would require helmets for every rider on a bicycle, e-bike or e-scooter in a city with a population over 1 million.

If you need detail on the provisions of these proposed laws, including penalties, enforcement, associated educational campaigns, helmet banks or giveaway programs, treatment of contributory negligence (liability) provisions, or dates of enactment, Safe Kids Worldwide has a status sheet on bicycle helmet laws available from Meg Farrage at 202-662-0616. We are indebted to Safe Kids Worldwide for their help in keeping our list up to date, and to Ralph Wessels for information on the Washington State communities. Shirley Scatcherd provided the info on the St. Louis County local laws (35 of them!), and we have her original detailed compilation of them up. We also have an email with detail on the St Louis County Law including their unique street sign.


You can access here a compendium of bicycle helmet safety program evaluations taken from the Centers for Disease Control's MMWR issue titled "Injury Control Recommendations: Bicycle Helmets" Please send us any other evaluations you may see in the future so we can add them to this page.

Here is a link to a formal study on the effect of bicycle helmet legislation on bicycling fatalities.

Consumer Product Safety Commission staffer Greg Rodgers has published a study concluding that the presence of a State law increases helmet use by 18.4 per cent.

New York State reported that since it introduced its first helmet law in 1989 for passengers under 5, and its second in 1994 for riders under 14, the annual rate of cyclists hospitalized from bicycle-related traumatic brain injuries fell for the under 14 group from 464 in 1990 to 209 in 1995. The rate for cyclists 14 and over for the same years declined less rapidly, from 454 to 382. There is no way to determine exactly what proportion of the improvement was due to helmet laws, since there is no data on improvements to bicycle facility safety, rider education or total miles ridden in those years, and helmet promotion campaigns by Safe Kids Worldwide and others were active in the state. But it is likely that increased helmet use, prompted by passage of the first law in 1989 and the promotion campaigns in New York communities, played a role in the reduction of injuries.

New Jersey reported in July of 1997 that since it introduced a helmet law for kids under 14 the number of bicycle-related fatalities for that group fell by 60 per cent, from 41 in 1987-1991 to 16 in 1992-1997. For riders age 14 and over the figures were 75 and 71. The School Board of Sommers Point, NJ added a helmet rule and boosted helmet use by those who ride to school from 6 per cent up to more than 70 per cent. Their attorney thought that failure to require helmets could leave the School District liable in the event of an injury.

Duval County, Florida, reported an increase in helmet use by all ages from 19 per cent in 1996 to 47 per cent in 1997 after the Florida law was passed. Bicycle deaths fell from five to one, and injuries from 325 to 105. Results were even better in the age group covered by the law. Hillsborough County, Florida, also reports an increase in helmet use and a decline in injuries after passage of the same law.

A study done in North Carolina using actual field observation before (1999) and after (2002) their law covering kids under 16 passed showed a small increase in adult helmet use but no increase for kids covered by the law. Overall on-street NC helmet use went from 18% to 24%, with larger gains among mountain bikers. The study concluded that "statistical analyses indicate that the law failed to generate a differential increase in helmet use by children ages zero to 15 years, mandated to wear helmets, compared with those ages 16 and above and not covered by the law. Although the difference in helmet use between surveys (1999 pre-law and 2002 post-law) was significant, it is clear that the helmet requirement has had little effect on increasing helmet use by children thus far." As far as we know they have not updated the study since 2002.

A study published in Pediatrics in 2002 found that in Canada the bicycle-related head injury rate declined significantly (45% reduction) in provinces where legislation had been adopted compared with provinces and territories that did not adopt legislation (27% reduction). A 2010 Canadian study showed that bicycle usage remained constant after helmet laws were adopted in two provinces, and that helmet use was increased more by all-ages laws than those applying only to children.

A study of California statistics by Lee et al published in Accident Analysis & Prevention in 2005 shows that head injuries in the under-16 group covered by the law went down by 18.2 per cent in California after the state helmet law was passed. There was no change in adult head injury rates.

This statistical analysis concludes that passing a state-wide bicycle helmet law covering youth riders reduces cycling by those who are covered by the law by 4 to 5 per cent. We note a number of problems with the data they used, but are still concerned about the conclusion. No actual rider counts have ever shown that result anywhere in the US.


Tacoma, Washington, repealed their all-ages law in 2020. The repeal was part of a major overhaul of their city's micro-transportation environment. This article in the News Tribune has background. In 2019, the Tacoma Police Department handed out 12 citations for people not wearing a helmet.

The National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior, a Gallup poll sponsored by the US Government, found that 90% of cyclists support helmet laws for children, while 62 percent support such laws for adults. (Here is an excerpt from the study with details.)

The Spokane law was passed by the City Council over the Mayor's veto. The Mayor wanted to delay, reduce coverage to those 16 and under, not cover skateboarders or inline skaters and coordinate with neighboring jurisdictions. The Council vote was 5-1 with one absent. Here is a columnist in the local newspaper who agreed with the action. In April 2019 the City Council exempted people riding electric scooters rented through smartphone apps.

The Shaker Heights, Ohio, law covers adults but not kids under the age of 5 years. It does cover passengers on bicycles, however. The Austin, Texas, law was originally for all ages, but a grass-roots protest movement resulted in limiting it in October, 1997, to riders under 18. A similar change was made in Barrington, Illinois. Seymour, Connecticut, repealed its law. (The referendum also included an unpopular no-smoking law.) An attempt in 1999 to force a referendum on the Farmington Hills, Michigan, law for riders under 16 failed for lack of signatures.

El Cerrito, California, dropped its 1993 all-ages law in 2013, noting that the 1994 California State statute takes precedence. In 2015 there is a California State Senate bill that would expand their law to cover all ages, skateboards, non-motorized scooters and more.

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 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.

The City of Oakwood, Ohio, has taken an different route by adopting a resolution encouraging the use of helmets. It directs the Safety Department (Police) to develop educational programs for helmet safety. It also provides the authority for officers to "wave over" minor cyclists who are not using protective head gear. No fines or other deterrents are permissible as this is not an ordinance, but a "soft mandate."

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 organized tour riders. U.S. military regulations require helmets on military facilities. The National Bicycle Dealers Association opposes mandatory helmet laws. Bicycle Retailer and Industry News has editorialized against them.


There are mandatory helmet laws in Argentina, Australia, Austria, parts of Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, France, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Jersey, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, New Zealand, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates and parts of the United States. In 2017 a new review of their effects was reportedly being undertaken at the University of New South Wales in Australia. This Wikipedia article includes them.

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 a study of long term bicycle related head injury trends for New South Wales found indicators that cycling had increased and head injuries had dropped over time. Posting comments on this blog the critics continued to debate. In 2016 Canberra announced they would study the possibility of relaxing their helmet law for "parks, town centres and other low-speed environments such as shared zones and university precincts" in an effort to increase ridership. And in 2017 the Bicycle Network organization launched a thorough review of its long-standing position in favor of mandatory helmet laws, expected to be completed in April, 2018, but we have not seen the results.

New Zealand's national helmet law took effect in January, 1994. A study showed that although cyclists' injuries increased in the years thereafter, head injuries declined. A 2018 report on national government statistics showed that $55 tickets issued for failure to wear a helmet had declined 75 per cent in the past five years, reaching a low of 2,618 nationwide, down in 2019 to 1144. In 2018 a group tried to organize helmet law repeal rallies, but the one held in Wellington turned out only 25 cyclists, and a subsequent poll showed that 70 percent of 57,000 respondents said that cyclists should be required to wear helmets. (link above) This article in 2021 has the current situation.

In Europe: "In some European countries, cycle helmets have become mandatory in the last few years. In Malta, cycle helmets became mandatory for all cyclists in April 2004. In Sweden, cycle helmets became mandatory for children up to 15 years of age on January 1st 2005. The same group of cyclists has to wear helmets in Slovenia and the Czech Republic. In Spain, cyclists have to wear a helmet outside urban areas except when going uphill.

The Swedish government conducted an international literature search, summarized in a study published in 2003. They found that helmet laws can achieve levels of usage not achieved by education alone, that helmet laws reduce head injuries, and that helmet laws can result in a reduction of cycling by young people. We have the abstract up on our site.

Iceland's mandatory helmet rule, a ministerial decree covering children under 15, came into effect in September of 1999.

The British Medical Association examined the evidence and recommended in 2004 that the UK adopt a mandatory helmet law for both children and adults. They had previously recognized the benefits of helmet use but had feared that a helmet law might reduce cycling, resulting in negative net health benefits. That same argument led readers polled by the BMA's magazine to vote against helmet laws in 2011. In 2010 Jersey was considering a new law that would require helmets for riders under 18, having rejected a proposal for an all-ages law. The UK's Transport Research Laboratory has published a paper on the effectiveness of helmets. It found that in 2008, 34 per cent of riders in the UK were already wearing helmets on major roads, and 17 per cent on minor roads. In a 2011 poll of 4000 cyclists conducted by the non-profit IAM, ten percent of the respondents said they would quit cycling if a mandatory helmet law were enacted.

The Copenhagen Post reported in November, 2009 that a failed attempt to pass a Danish law requiring helmets for those under 12 was being revived after evidence surfaced that the proportion of Danish cyclists arriving at emergency rooms with head injuries was declining as helmet use there has increased to about one in six cyclists.

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

Canada has provincial and local helmet laws. Ontario's helmet law for cyclists under 18 took effect in 1995. It was originally to have covered all ages, and there is a bill in parliament now to extend it to do that. There is spirited opposition by a few cyclists there. (see links below) Proponents cite the cost of cyclists' injuries to the national health system, without reference to the much greater cost of treating those injured in cars, a blind spot also found in the US. In March, 2003, the Canadian Institute for Health Information announced that hospitalizations due to cycling-related injuries were down 12.5 per cent between 1997-98 and 2001-02. Head injuries fell even more precipitously, by 26 per cent during the same period. 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. Alberta added a law on May 1, 2002, requiring helmets for riders under 18, including passengers and toddlers on tricycles. Prince Edward Island's law was effective on July 5, 2003, and covers all ages. A research project in Toronto before and after their law came into effect showed that "although the number of child cyclists per hour was significantly different in different years, these differences could not be attributed to legislation. In 1996, the year after legislation came into effect, average cycling levels were higher (6.84 cyclists per hour) than in 1995, the year before legislation (4.33 cyclists per hour)." Conclusion: Contrary to the findings in Australia, the introduction of helmet legislation did not have a significant negative impact on child cycling in this community. Manitoba's under-18 helmet law came into effect in 2013. They will permit first-time offenders to avoid a fine by taking an on-line bike safety quiz. A 2015 law in Newfoundland and Labrador required all cyclists of any age to wear a helmet.

Korea has adopted a mandatory helmet law that took effect in September 2018. Cyclists are fighting it, and it may be amended.

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.

Iceland's under 15 rule is mentioned above

The Czech Republic requires helmets for those under 16.

France has a lively discussion on helmets going on. The best summary is probably this page on the Mieux se Déplacer å Bicyclette site. They analyze deaths in Paris and in France as a whole and conclude that helmet usage is a personal question but can save lives. In 2017 a French law went into effect requiring helmets for anyone under 12 years old, with a fine of €135 for an adult carrying a child on their bike without a helmet or accompanying a child who is cycling without one.

The Netherlands has a similar discussion, focusing primarily on children and seniors. Helmet laws would be a big step for a country as bike-centric as the Netherlands, where cycling has been made safer by meticulous attention to road facilities, legal structure that places all blame on a motorist in a crash and by high volumes of riders. A study published in 2020 by van den Brand et al concluded: "In this study we found that patients with TBI due to bicycle accidents did not wear helmets as often as a comparable control group. This association could not be established for patients with TBI as a result of a collision between a bicycle and a motorized vehicle. This study has some limitations, but the results strongly suggest that TBI in adult cyclists could be reduced if cyclists in the Netherlands would wear a helmet more often. Future research should focus on establishing the exact frequency of bicycle helmet use in the Netherlands and ways to promote helmet use without discouraging cycling."

Japan adopted a national helmet law in 2008 that requires children under 13 to wear helmets. This page has some info on that. A Yomiuri Shinbun article reported that 76 per cent of the surveyed parents of kids 1 to 6 years old had bought helmets for their kids, but only 54 per cent said the kids always wear them.

Mexico City briefly adopted a mandatory helmet law, but this article on the European Bicycle Federation site says 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 ddprotection 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. 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.

Helmet Law Links

  • The Rascal Rides Blog has a restatement of some of our list by state as text. They have some interesting notes as well.

  • The US Government: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, part of DOT, has a report called Bicycle Helmet Use Laws: Lessons Learned from Selected Sites CD-ROM 2004. It includes lessons learned from Austin, Texas; Jacksonville and Duval County, Florida; the State of Maryland; the State of Oregon; Port Angeles, Washington, and Seymour, Connecticut. The web link actually has the entire CD if you click on "Table of Contents," and clicking on the "printer friendly version" link gets you a 219 page file in .pdf format. We include that file now on the CD we send with our Toolkit for Helmet Promotion Programs. Email us at the address below if you need just the CD.

  • NHTSA also has an interesting page on automotive seatbel laws, if you can find it. It shows that most states have minimal fines for not wearing a seatbelt, only 21 of them authorize a police officer to stop a car and ticket the driver for not wearing a belt, and the State of New Hampshire still has no seatbelt law for adults. The parallels with bicycle helmet laws are obvious.

  • A CPSC study on the effectiveness of State helmet laws concludes that a state helmet law increases helmet use by 18.4 per cent.

    This BikePortland blog article concludes that their law has not had much effect. Riders are not wearing helmets, and head injuries are rising as cycling becomes more popular.

  • The UK Department for Transport has published a study of helmet effectiveness geared toward decision-making about mandatory helmet requirements.

    The Wiley Online Library has a large number of studies on bike helmet use and laws listed in this search of their site.

  • The most definitive site that promotes scepticism about the use of helmets and laws to require them is that of the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation. They find "serious flaws in the evidence most frequently cited in favour of helmet effectiveness. Moreover, it has become increasingly clear that real-world data, from independent sources and based on large populations where helmet use has become common, do not support these claims. Most disturbing of all, there are sources of evidence to suggest that increased helmet use has sometimes been associated with an increase in the number or severity of head injuries to cyclists." All that is on their Policy Statement page. They have links to other like-minded sites.

  • And here is the pro-helmet side from New Zealand's John Wren.

  • This link takes you to a Google search for those opposed to helmet laws.

Other Helmet Law Lists

How2Buy Children Promotions Statistics Laws
About New Standards Teachers Search

This page was revised on: March 28, 2021. BHSI logo