Skip to main content

Health officials push for more helmet use among cyclists

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

With spring in the air, more bicycle riders are taking to the streets.

Cycling is up 78 percent in the Twin Cities since 2007.  And Minnesota health officials are urging cyclists to take a helmet along when they hit the streets.

Wearing a well-fitting helmet reduces the risk of brain injury by a whopping 85 percent, according to the health department.

The Minnesota Department of Health says if every cyclist wore a helmet, it would prevent an estimated 500 bicycle-related fatalities and 151,000 nonfatal head injuries each year.

Officials say more education is needed to increase the number of Minnesota cyclists who wear helmets.

According to the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, only about 8 percent of Minnesota’s bike riders wear a helmet consistently.

Still, that’s “far greater than most other places in the nation,” Mark Kinde, director of the Minnesota Department of Health’s Injury & Violence Prevention Program, told MinnPost.

State health statistics show there were 6,227 bicycle-related injuries in Minnesota in 2010. Those are injuries that were either treated in a hospital emergency room or required hospitalization. Nine cyclists were killed that year.

Despite increasing evidence of the dangers of biking without a helmet, most U.S. cities with bike-share programs don't require helmets and some have even repealed mandatory helmet use.

The reason, Huffington Post reports, is that helmet requirements tends to dampen the popularity of bike-share programs by taking the spontaneity out of the decision to just hop on a bike and go. The concern is that casual riders and tourists would balk at having to plan ahead to bring a helmet, or buy one on the fly.

And even in cities that do require helmets, compliance has been mixed.

Huffington Post reports, Melbourne, Australia's bike-share program requires riders to wear helmets, and although the city is flat and ideal for cycling, it achieves only 10 percent of the usage of comparable programs in London and Dublin, which don't require helmets.

Minnesota's program, Nice Ride, does not require helmets either. Instead, Nice Ride recommends that cyclists wear helmets voluntarily. The agency suggests stashing a helmet at work or in your locker to make it easier to remember.

Helmet or no, the key to bike safety, say health officials, is education for bikers and drivers alike. Here are some handy tips for safe cycling from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Wear a Bicycle Helmet
  • Adjust Your Bicycle to Fit
  • See and Be Seen. Wear bright colors. Remember, just because you can see a driver doesn’t mean the driver can see you.
  • Watch for hazards such as potholes, broken glass, gravel, puddles, leaves, and dogs. All these hazards can cause a crash.
  • Avoid Riding at Night.

Next Up

storm, severe

The latest on holiday weekend severe weather chances for MN

The most significant severe threats are Sunday night and again on Monday.

Arianna Vos

Charges: Driver was drunk, high in head-on crash that killed 19-year-old woman

The young woman killed in the crash was a college student studying zoology.

motorcycle

Motorcyclist killed in Ham Lake after passing in the turn lane

The motorcyclist was hit by a car turning onto the road.

Keith Ellison

Minnesota gets cut of Ford settlement over misleading ads

The $19.2 million settlement centers on Ford's C-Max hybrid and Super Duty pickup truck.

Richfield High School

Richfield High School closed for day after threat

District officials say the threat is not believed to be credible.

covid test airport

White House names MN as location for federal test-to-treat COVID sites

Minnesota is one of only five states that will host the pilot project.

Baby owl

The Raptor Center says downward trend holding for avian influenza

A "baby shower" fundraising campaign hopes to help return young raptors to the wild.

Prince

Commemorative street name for Prince approved in Minneapolis

The block next to the First Avenue nightclub will be named Prince Rogers Nelson Way.

Related