Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

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A "RetroFit Program" from Maine

Summary: Here is an innovative way to improve and extend helmet use by replacing pads and other components.

Date: Mon, 22 Dec 1997

From: Maine Coalition for Safe Kids - safekids@somtel.com

Subject: Retrofitting of Bicycle Helmets

Here's more on our retrofitting service for bicycle helmets:

We've been into retrofitting for about 18 months, finding that about two-thirds of the helmets in use are so poorly fitted that they provide scant protection. The most common shortcomings are missing pads, pads of the wrong thickness, maladjusted straps, shells that are too large for the user to be fitted properly, incorrect positioning of the helmet on the head, and defective straps/buckles.

We provide retrofitting kits for trained volunteers to use. Each is replenished after each use and each contains several hundred pads in about a dozen shapes and sizes, replacement Velcro pads, "O" rings, scissors, special pliers for working on straps and "O" rings, reflectors that are affixed to helmets lacking them, and double-sided sticky tape for replacing ceiling pads in certain models of helmets. It costs about $50-$60 to put together one kit. We have six in use.

The service is provided statewide at health and safety fairs, bicycle rodeos, school Safety Day programs and other community events. It works well only if well promoted ahead of time so people remember to bring their helmets with them.

The typical retrofitting of one helmet takes 5 minutes and consumes about 80 cents worth of materials. Some include much more, others less.

During the retrofitting, there is a full explanation of what is being done, and why, to the person served and to the parent(s) of a child being served, if one or both parents are available. At the end, a flyer is given to each person to show them how to test and adjust the fit themselves later on. Retrofitting provides a great educational opportunity.

We have a well-established (custom-fitted) new helmet distribution program. When new helmets and retrofitting are both available at the same event, about half of the people served are for retrofits. Thus, we have about doubled the number of people leaving an event with a helmet that will protect them well, compared to the days before we did retrofitting.

The parts for our retrofitting kits have been purchased from the helmet manufacturers we patronize. As their styles change, we can't always find all of the components we need for retrofitting. Sometimes, we can't find a component that meets our own standards, the reason I asked you about "O" ring sources because the newer ones available to us aren't tight enough. Presumably, many helmet manufacturers are merely assembling helmets with component parts like pads, Velcro, etc. from other places. Somewhere, I'm sure there is a list of helmet component suppliers. Let us know if you ever run across it.

Bob Bull
Maine Coalition for Safe Kids, Inc.

Note: Bob Bull no longer works with the Maine Coalition. It is now called Safe Kids Maine and the lead agency is:

Greater Portland Council of Governments
68 Marginal Way
Portland, ME 04101

When we last checked, the contact there is David Willauer.

We do not know if they are still refurbishing helmets or not, but do not find any reference to it on either website.