Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Is Helmet Use on the Decline?

   I've been noticing what seems to be a decline in helmet use by recreational cyclist. Although my observations are purely anecdotal, it really appears to me that more and more casual riders are foregoing the old brain bucket. The alarming part is that I'm seeing more kids riding without helmets than I remember seeing in the past. I'm really not sure why this is so, and it could be purely because now that I've noticed it, I'm paying more attention to it (kinda like the *white van parked at the corner.)

   Another reason could be that it's summer and therefore more casual riders are out and about biking to the park/pool/store - the type of rider who probably has never owned a helmet. The saddest part is that these are the very riders who do not have the experience or expertise in cycling and are more likely to be involved in an incident.

   Of the "not so casual" riders I see sans helmet it could be due, in part, to emulating the image of the "bike messenger", a more recent fad. Oddly enough it's only been in the past couple of years that professional road racers have begun wearing helmets full time. I was watching a Tour de France documentary and was shocked to see so many riders without helmets ("crash helmets" as Phil Liggett called them), or wearing them on the downhill sections only. I'm glad to see that is no longer the case since so many youngsters (and "not so" youngsters) will emulate the pros. It's like Jonathan Vaughters supposedly said - "Next time your in your car going 50 mph, strip down to your underwear and jump out the window.....that's what a bike wreck feels like."

   All in all, I'm curious if any of y'all have noticed any changes in the public's use and/or perception of helmets...

*Once you start paying attention to vehicles parked on the street you'll almost always see a white van parked at the corner of a street. It's because your brain ignores the many times there isn't a van, but alerts you every time there is one.

Photo Credit


  1. I think the important term here is "Recreational cyclist." Los Angeles is becoming more and more a place where people ride everyday. Where people use bicycles not for recreation but for getting from A to B. In places like Holland, where bicycles are the default mode of transportation, helmets are a rarity. It has a lot to do with comfort level, roads are safer there, but riders are also more confident having taken bicycle training, and practice riding almost everyday.

    I myself only wear my helmet a few times out of the year, but ride almost daily. I wear it when forced to by regulated rides, or when I know I'm going to ride dangerously (really fast, really far, or off road). I feel confident enough about my riding abilities to ride without one most of the time. On the other hand, I think it is pretty important for my daughter who's just learning how to ride a bike, to wear a helmet. (Coincidentally, being the sweetheart that she is thinks I should always wear my helmet like she does.)

  2. As a follow up... I did an informal study the other day and in the time it takes to make a lap around the Veloway (about 15 min.) I counted 56 riders/skaters and noted that 13 of them weren't wearing helmets. I don't know if that is above or below par, or just par. I'm sure someone who is good at math could probably turn those numbers into a percentage, but I'll leave that up to experts.