But will they wear them?
Summary: Here is material from a proposal by Steve Meiers, then a Safety Educator, Madison (Wisconsin) Department of Transportation, for a proposal to mount a study of why kids don't wear the free helmets they are given. Steve did get
local support for his study, and you can read the results on the page summarizing the
findings. But some of the background material from the original proposal was interesting as background, so we have
kept it here. We also have a page on Free Helmets.
Bicycle helmets and low-income youth
Taking it to the streets: Helmet use and Bicycle Safety as components of
inner city youth development.
- Winn et al Clinical Pediatrics, November 1992.
In the summer of 1992 researchers in East Wheeling West Virginia gave bicycle helmets to 23 youth ages 6 to 14 year
olds who were participating in a summer bicycle program. Initially cool to the idea of wearing helmets they gradually
warmed up to them and eventually saw them as a source of pride. 2 weeks after the program ended only 3 kids were
- Evaluation of a bicycle helmet giveaway program Texas 1995 Logan et al Pediatrics 1998
Researchers gave out 400 bicycle helmets to students (Grades K-8) in two small poor Texas towns. Prizes including cash
were given out randomly to kids seen wearing their helmets. Actual use rose from 3% prior to the distribution to 40% at
the peak. The incentive program ended with the school year and during the summer helmet use dropped to the same level
it was prior to the distribution.
- Effect of education and legislation on bicycle helmet use in a multiracial population. Abularrage et al,
Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine January 1997.
Researchers evaluated the effects of a helmet law in New York. There was a month long educational campaign in Queens,
the most ethnically diverse county in the country, that included prizes and coupons. There was no effort to educate
bicyclists about helmet use or the law in Brooklyn, the 4th most ethnically diverse county in the country. Helmet use
increased 17% among white youth but there was no change among Asian or Hispanic populations. The materials were only in
English which may have been a significant factor.
- The effects of a 4 year old program promoting bicycle helmet use among children in Quebec. Farley et al,
American Journal of Public Health January 1996.
After doing a standard education program -- school programs, pamphlets, coupons and so forth -- helmet use among
elementary school aged children rose from 2% to 33%. The program was three times as effective in the average/rich
municipalities than in poor communities.
- Evaluation of a subsidy program to increase bicycle helmet use by children of low-income families Parkin et al
Pediatrics August 1995
In 1990 researchers in Ontario concluded that school based educational programs were highly successful among children
from high-income families but additional strategies were needed to increase helmet use among children from low-income
They developed a Subsidy program selling $40 helmets for $10. 80% of the 1100 elementary students who owned bikes took
advantage of the subsidy and bought helmets. Actual use grew from 2% prior to the intervention to 20%
- Police enforcement as part of a comprehensive bicycle helmet program. Gilchrist et al, American Academy of
Helmets were made available to nearly 600 students in grades K-7 in a small (2,400) poor (40% incomes below the poverty
level) town in rural Georgia. The police enforced an ordinance requiring helmet use impounding 167 bicycles. In order
to get the bicycles back parents had to go to the police station where they heard a safety message and received a
helmet if they could not provide proof of ownership. Observed helmet use grew from 0% prior to the intervention to
Steve Meiers (since retired from the Madison Dept. of Transportation)