A Bike But No Helmet: Recommended Reading

Oct 25, 2011, 4:59 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

An article in the New York Times about New York City’s bike share program, set to debut next summer, says that although a handlebar bell and rear lights will be standard issue on the rental bikes, helmets will not. Nor are helmets mandatory for adults in New York City.

What gives? According to the article, bikes helmets, ­recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all riders since at least 1995, could be viewed as annoying or cumbersome by some and discourage them from biking—­and its health benefits.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), bicycle-related crashes kill 900 people every year and result in over 550,000 emergency room visits.

Additional bicycle statistics from the CPSC:

  • Wearing a bike helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent
  • Today there are an estimated 80.6 million riders, 43 percent of whom never wear helmets

According to data on helmet laws from the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute there is no federal law requiring cyclists to wear helmets and many communities limit such laws to children only.

And what do emergency physicians think of bare-headed bike-share programs? Half a million emergency room visits each year for bicycle-related injuries is a very big number, says Bruce Bonanno, MD, an emergency room doctor in Holmdel, N.J., and spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians. “And you won’t get any exercise at all if you die from a head injury.”

>>Read the full article here.

>>Read more on weighing the health benefits and safety risks of bike-share programs here.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.