Only 1 in 5 bike share cyclists wears a helmet

April 30, 2012

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."

Explore further: The impact of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist head injuries

Related Stories

Australia: Helmets off to legislation

December 5, 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.

Any UK law on cycle helmets should apply only to kids

March 7, 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 ...

Recommended for you

Sustaining biomedical research: Med school deans speak out

May 27, 2015

Cuts in federal support and unreliable funding streams are creating a hostile work environment for scientists, jeopardizing the future of research efforts and ultimately clinical medicine, according to leaders of the nation's ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.