Only 1 in 5 bike share cyclists wears a helmet

A national rise in public bike sharing programs could mean less air pollution and more exercise, an environmental and health win-win for people in the cities that host them, but according to researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, more than 80 percent of bike share riders are putting themselves at significant health risk by not wearing helmets.

"Head injury accounts for about a third of all bicycle injuries and about three-quarters of bicycle related deaths, so these are some pretty shocking numbers," says lead author and emergency medicine physician Christopher Fischer, MD.

The results of the study are published in the April 30 online edition of the .

Bike sharing programs where riders rent bicycles from kiosks located throughout a metropolitan area have become popular in European cities like Paris and Barcelona. There are 15 bike sharing programs in operation in the United States and 30 more under development.

The study examined the Capital Bike share program that began in the Washington, DC area in September, 2010 and Boston's Hubway bike share program launched in July, 2011 with 61 kiosk locations and 600 bikes.

Fischer and team used trained observers to collect data on adult cyclist helmet usage in Boston and Washington over 43 observation periods totaling more than 50 hours. The sites were located near bike rental kiosks but all bikers, whether they rented bikes or rode their own, were recorded. More than 3,000 bicyclists were observed.

"We were surprised to find that of all bicyclists, more than half rode without helmets," says Fischer. "But it was even more concerning to learn that four out of five bike share riders were out there without helmets."

Studies show that "helmet use is associated with decreased rates of head injury and mortality in riders of all ages, with bicycle helmets decreasing the risk of head and by 65 to 88 percent," write the authors.

While helmet wearing is encouraged in the Boston and Washington, DC bike sharing programs – and websites offer locations where renters can purchase helmets – helmet use is not a requirement for bike rental.

"Bike sharing programs have the potential to offer a lot of benefits to and cities, but it's important to encourage safe cycling," says Fischer. "We know that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury dramatically and we believe that helmets should be more readily available at bike rental sites."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Australia: Helmets off to legislation

Dec 05, 2011

Cycling levels in Sydney could more than double if laws forcing cyclists to wear helmets were repealed, according to new research published today in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia.

Washington turning to bike-sharing plan

Apr 28, 2008

A new bike-sharing venture in Washington called SmartBike DC will allow people to rent bicycles using only a membership card, city officials say.

Any UK law on cycle helmets should apply only to kids

Mar 07, 2012

Any law to make the wearing of cycle helmets mandatory in the UK should apply only to children, because the evidence that cycle helmets significantly protect adults against serious head injury is equivocal, conclude researchers ...

The Medical Minute: March is brain injury awareness month

Mar 24, 2011

March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month. Traumatic brain injuries are disruptions or changes in the way the brain functions that occur due to a blow or jolt to the head or penetrating injuries. The severity can range ...

Recommended for you

The human race evolved to be fair for selfish reasons

13 hours ago

"Make sure you play fairly," often say parents to their kids. In fact, children do not need encouragement to be fair, it is a unique feature of human social life, which emerges in childhood. When given the o ...

Non-stop PET/CT scan provides accurate images

Sep 18, 2014

Siemens is improving PET/CT imaging and data quality while reducing radiation exposure. The Biograph mCT Flow PET/CT scanner is a new positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) system that, ...

Experts: Chopin's heart shows signs of TB

Sep 17, 2014

The preserved heart of composer Frederic Chopin contains signs of tuberculosis and possibly some other lung disease, medical experts said Wednesday.

User comments