Wear a Helmet

Properly wearing a helmet when cycling is your best means of protection against injury. According to recent research, helmets provide a 63 to 88 percent reduction in the risk of head, brain, and severe brain injury for all ages of bicyclists (Thompson, 2007). The following information will help you find the right helmet for you.

Helmet guidelines

  1. Wear a helmet:
    • Always wear a helmet while riding a bike, no matter how short the trip
    • After a crash or any impact that affects your helmet, replace it immediately
  2. Always wear a properly fitting helmet:
    • A helmet will not protect you if it does not fit properly
    • Make sure that the helmet fits on top of the head, not tipped back
  3. Shell and pads:
    • Find the smallest helmet shell size that fits over your head
    • Helmet pads should not be used to make a helmet that is too big fit your head
    • Leave about two-fingers width between your eyebrows and the front of the helmet
  4. Straps:
    • The straps should be joined just under each ear at the jawbone
    • The buckle should be snug with your mouth completely open
    • Periodically check your strap adjustment; improper fit can render a helmet useless
  5. Ventilation:
    • In general, the more vents the better; improper ventilation can cause overheating
    • Helmets with good ventilation can actually be cooler than riding with no helmet at all
  6. Colors:
    • Helmets come in all different colors in different models; buy a highly visible color
    • Shell color does not affect the temperature; a black shell will not be hotter in the sun
    • Pick a color that you will wear
  7. Remember, a helmet and good cycling skills go hand in hand. Even though you're wearing a helmet, it's important to always practice safe riding.

Research on helmets

"Helmets for Preventing Head and Facial Injuries in Bicyclists" — This article reviews studies investigating the roles of bicycle helmets in preventing injuries during bicycle crashes. The authors conclude that "helmets reduce bicycle-related head and facial injuries for bicyclists of all ages involved in all types of crashes, including those involving motor vehicles."

"Protective Effect of Different Types of Bicycle Helmets" — This study involves almost 1000 patients with injuries stemming from bicycle accidents. The authors conclude that "the use of hard shell helmets reduced the risk of getting injuries to the head. Children less than nine years old that used foam helmets had an increased risk of getting face injuries. All bicyclists should be recommended to use hard shell bicycle helmets while cycling."

"Bicycle Helmet Legislation for the Uptake of Helmet Use and Prevention of Head Injuries" — This study reviews writings on bicycle injuries and helmet usage rates. The authors note the connection between areas that require helmet use and lower head injury rates.

Helmet-related links

Current US motorcycle and bicycle helmet laws — This web site provides a map of the US, with information on laws related to bicycle helmet use for each state.

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute — The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI)'s web site is a clearinghouse of information on helmets. Go there for information on general safety tips, stats, recall information for consumers, and many other topics relating to helmets. BHSI is the helmet advocacy program of the Washington Area Bicyclist association.

Can you tell me how to bike to Sesame Street? — Specialists at the Children's Memorial Medical Center in Chicago discuss the perfect bike helmet and give helpful tips for outfitting children with a bicycle helmet.

Bike Safety — The Nemours Foundation provides information on bicycle safety for children. The web site is directed at parents to help them protect the safety of their children.

Bike Safety Poster — This poster provides a cool graphic for many different bike safety situations, including wearing helmets.

Ontario Coalition for Better Bicycling — Helmet FAQs.

American Association of Pediatricians — Tips for getting a child to wear a helmet.

Helmet Fit — NHTSA's Tips on achieving the perfect bike helmet fit.

League of American Bicyclists — The League of American Bicyclists provides a number of good tips for beginning bicyclists including how to fit a helmet and things to check before you ride.

"Do I have to wear a helmet, Mom?" — This Safe Kids article will help you answer that question.

Fun Stuff Just for Kids

Motor City Mayhem — See Rad Rider, Safety Cycler, with his Protectron Helmet and his trusty two-wheeled steed, the "Red Racer" in the fast-paced interactive comic book "Motor City Mayhem." Then take Rad Rider's Safety Test for Kids.

Free Comic Book! — Download Sprocketman and read the adventures of another helmet-wearing superhero cyclist.

Color on Sesame Street — This side provides coloring pages of the Sesame Street characters for children including a sheet of Zoe riding a bike.

Watch a Helmet Cartoon — This website shows a very short animated cartoon in which Jen displays the right way to wear a helmet and other bicycling safety basics.