Should elementary schools require bike helmets?

There is a middle school (grades 6-8) at the end of our block. Many kids bike to school.

Earlier this year, I noticed that the overwhelming majority of bikers (I’d estimate 90%) did not wear helmets when biking to/from school. Just struck me as odd because, tho I grew up in the 60s-70s never seeing a helmet, from the time our kids started biking in 90s, it seemed that helmet usage among kids was definitely the rule, rather than the exception.

Made me wonder what role the school ought to play. It impresses me as a health education issue, as well as potential liability. I imagine the school regulates other aspects of bike usage - where they can be parked, etc. The school also regulates other aspects of student behavior - no smoking, for example.

What do you think? Are you seeing young people wear bike helmets less than in past decades? (This isn’t anything I feel terribly strongly about. It just struck me as curious. And full discloser - I bike 50-70 miles a week and always wear my helmet.)

I think kids should wear helmets when they bike to school. I’ve never been particularly excited about schools trying to regulate children’s behavior when they’re not on school grounds. I suppose the school could require helmets once the child has entered the school’s property, but once they’re off the grounds, it ought to be the province of the city or the parents.

Not at all. I don’t think I’ve seen a child biking without a helmet in quite some time.

That’s because bike helmets didn’t really exist until the mid-70s at the earliest.

In 1974 the Washington Area Bicyclist Association despaired of finding information on the relative protection of helmet brands and formed a Helmet Committee to collect data from ride testing. WABA procured helmets from many sources and began a series of ride tests. At that time we found that the helmets on the market mostly had some kind of shell with a squishy foam liner. None had crushable EPS (picnic cooler) foam until the Bell Biker (below) and the Mountain Safety Research bike helmet came to market in the mid-1970’s.

That Bell helmet was the first one I had back in the day - I have pictures of me in my teens wearing it!

I don’t think the school can enforce a helmet rule when the kids are not on school grounds, but they can certainly help by educating kids and parents on safe riding practices. I am not sure but perhaps some municipalities have laws on helmets by age, so it would be under the purview of the local police to be the enforcer.

Not done yet, but it sounds like King County, Washington (where Seattle is) is about to repeal its adult helmet ordinance, which leaving the one for children in place.

No, the state regulates the age at which smoking is allowed. As it does helmet laws.

Some brain damaged parents can’t even agree on vaccinations that have been proven to save lives, now you would expect them to willingly give up their child’s freedom to suffer brain damage?

Well, my guess is that there is something in the school’s policies that say smoking - or other actions, whether illegal or not - could lead to discipline.

I wonder about the kids’ parents. I am not at all exaggerating when I say the vast majority of kids eschew helmets.

Actually, a part of me is just happy the kids are biking, instead of the huge group of parents who feel the need to drive the kids to/from school. (And no, this is not a huge, rural school district lacking sidewalks.).

I think it just boils down to education (both for kids and parents) - the school can certainly help on that front. But ultimately, it’s their choice on this one. Kids need to be shown the right way, but adults ought to know better (I see many adults riding fast w/o a helmet and shake my head).

I would rather see kids here riding with helmets than not, but there is a whole debate in the cycling world about helmets in general, and that millions of people of all ages around the world ride a bike at low speeds daily without a helmet with no ill effect, and probably many positive aspects.

My B-I-L, the personal injury attorney specializing in bicycle accidents, would tell you otherwise. Bicycle accidents rarely get publicized unless there’s a death. You won’t hear about the permanent brain damage and crippled limbs.

Yeah, or the differences in cyclist risk between places with lots of cycle commuters and dedicated bike paths/lanes, and places with few cycle commuters and a driving population that’s less aware of the need to accommodate cyclists safely.

There’s also the factor that for the vast majority of cyclists, there is no non-negligible downside to wearing a bike helmet. It doesn’t impede your vision, it doesn’t pose any risks, it doesn’t take more than a couple seconds to put on or take off.

I get why many adults don’t like the idea of the law forcing adults to wear bike helmets, just as many adults don’t like the idea of the law forcing adults to wear seatbelts in cars. But in terms of actual risk reduction, there is pretty much no non-stupid reason to refuse to wear a bike helmet. (Or a seatbelt, for that matter.)

I’m going to bias myself here. I am a former motorcycle rider who was opposed to motorcycle helmet laws in California. I still am, but to respond to the OP: NO! Schools are not the proper place to enforce helmet rules. The State (of California) is already doing it. STAY OUT OF IT.

With that said, I agree with the State laws mandating helmets for bicyclists under a certain age. We’ve all been young, and at that age knew we would never die. Many years later we realize we could have.

My sister used to manage a flower shop. They did a lot of funerals. She remembered TWO funerals in which the survivors were PISSED at the dead guy. Both were middle aged dads/husbands, died of head injuries after biking helmet less.

My niece bikes all the time. Last year she went down - avoiding a car that ran a red-light. Got a concussion thru her helmet. Pretty obvious it woulda been worse w/o.

I just don’t see it being worth the risk. And - like seatbelts - at first I thought it a pain in the ass. Now, I don’t even notice it, and in fact, feel weird w/o it.

What cracks me up lately is the number of adults I see biking w. their helmets hanging from their handlebars! Like it is gone do them a lot of good there! Maybe using it as a basket?

Hell, I got no problem w/ adults taking whatever risks they want (tho I might object to pool subsidization of resulting health care.)

And, for all I know, the school makes all manner of effort to try to encourage helmet use, but just decided to only take enforcement so far. The # of helmet less bikers just really caught my attention, and once noticed, I can’t un-notice it.

The law is different from place to place. Where I live one can ride a bike without wearing a helmet, but one must have a bell on the bike. Yes that’s right, a bell.
I don’t wear a helmet but I can see where it could be prudent to wear one. I figure I’ve made it this many years without one. I move aside when a car comes up behind me. However I will concede that a hockey helmet saved me on a couple occasions.
But a bell?! When I bought a new bike a few year ago the lady asked what bell I wanted.
I don’t want a bell. Why would I want a bell.
You have to have a bell.
I thought she was kidding me. Nope. Law states that a bell is required. But they don’t give a damn if you smash your skull to smithereens.
I do recommend helmets for those cyclists who dress as pansies & travel in packs, not moving out of the way of vehicles. It’s a matter of time before their helmets are put to use.

I say yes, schools should require it. I am a motorcyclist and bicyclist that is ATGATT (that’s all the gear, all the time). Of course, that is completely different gear between the two rides. And I do feel very vulnerable as a bomb down a steep, twisty grade on my road bike at 50mph, but, I would look super odd and be really hot wearing my motorcycle gear :slight_smile:

Helmet, all the time. I’ve needed them several times including one severely damaged full face after a spectacular dirt bike wreck.

What if the kid can’t afford a (new) helmet? The get lost or damaged. They should also be replaced if in an accident (because you can’t tell how much damage they sustained) or after 5 years, as UV degrades them.

What if a kid has one & forgets to put it on one morning, make him get off & walk at the edge of school property? Not allow him to bring it onto school property? I’m sure the neighbors, or bike thieves. would love that rule!

What if the kid has a helmet but either straps it to the handlebars or puts it on head but doesn’t strap it under their chin, or they’re using their sibling’s helmet & didn’t properly adjust it for them; in any of those three scenarios it’s not likely to provide much protection if they go flying & land on their head.

This is one of the most assiholic comments I’ve seen on the dope; hopefully a mod will slam you for this but let me tell you why you’re being a jerk.
First, pro cyclists are some of the fittest athletes on the planet. They don’t get a break in the action after every play or couple of plays, like NFL, NHL, or NBA do, they don’t get the opportunity to sit down in the shade the way MLBers do in the dugout. No, they’re riding for multiple hours straight, in tours for day after day. While most of the cyclists you’d encounter aren’t pros, they’re probably still in better shape than you are. Their “dress(ing) as pansies” is sport specific attire. Yes, they may go into a supermarket or convenience store for a refueling stop on a ride but I almost never see people wearing that attire when they’re not on/around their bike. Do you make derogatory comments about athletes in other sports wearing sport specific attire? How about wrestlers who wear even less, & more tight fitting clothes?

More importantly, cyclists are legally allowed to ride on the road, usually up to two abreast & motor vehicles must give three (or four - depending upon state) feet of room when passing. It’s up to the motorist to slow down until they can safely pass; no different than if you’re passing a farm or construction vehicle; betcha don’t threaten them because they’re bigger, do ya?

This school is in an upper middle class suburb. The kids (or their parents) are well able to afford much nicer bikes than I ever had at that age, as well as cellphones which they often are using while driving.

The sheer number of helmet less bikers strongly suggests to me that cost is not the primary factor.

IMO/E, schools teach/enforce a. lot of rules, which exceed what is legally prohibited. No running in the hallways. No shooting rubber bands/spitballs. No talking during tests. No climbing of the baseball backstops outdoors. I suspect there are various reasons for this. To teach the kids to follow rules, to protect their safety, to encourage healthy practices, to maintain order, to reduce the school’s liability…

Like I said, there might be considerable efforts being made but ignored by the students/parents. But more likely is my impression that this school - and other schools in our town - just decided to be pretty lax in enforcing specific rules as students approach/leave school. I’m just a tad surprised at the kids crossing in the middle of streets, parents parking for pickup/drop-off wherever, kids biking down the middle of streets. But I don’t really care. My kids are grown. I just make an effort not to drive anywhere for 20 minutes or so every morning and afternoon.

I totally missed that comment, but you are 100% correct. I get tired of anti-bike rhetoric like this.

Bike helmets, oh the memories! My son loved riding his bike and was a real daredevil. I insisted he wear his helmet, so he would dutifully put it on as he pedaled off to hook up with his friends. Then he’d take it off.

Every so often a local cop would pull into my driveway while I was working in the yard to tell me my kid was riding without his helmet. Once he rode up (wearing his helmet) while I was chatting with a cop. He insisted it was a case of mistaken identity.

The other day on FaceBook I saw a picture of my granddaughter (his 1 1/2 year old) riding her Big Wheel with a helmet on her head. My gf didn’t understand why it was so funny.

I particularly want to emphasize this phrase:
“ … the extensive literature review found no reliable real-world evidence of helmets being beneficial in reducing cyclists’ injuries …”

Note that that website, while dated, provides links to many hundreds of pages of research on cycle helmets. My personal opinion based on reading a shitload of it is that (paraphrasing a quote I once heard somewhere) “Bicycle helmets are the biggest sporting goods scam ever perpetrated on the American public.”

And a TEDx talk for good measure:

. TEDxCopenhagen - Mikael Colville-Andersen - Why We Shouldn't Bike with a Helmet - YouTube

Modnote: 3 flags for your homophobic comment. Do not do this again. While no warning issued, it was close. I am making a user note on this post.