Should Bike Share cities have helmet laws?

Late last year I wrote this post suggesting that bike helmets don’t do much good. I was subsequently alerted to the passionate, sometimes aggressive debate surrounding bike helmets, the tenor of which was largely a surprise to me.

Cyclists in Salt Lake City

Cyclists in Salt Lake City

Bike share, which recently began in Salt Lake City, adds another component to this debate. While researching this topic, I came across this post from Seattle Bike Blog, which basically advocates for an end to that city’s helmet law. It’s an interesting read that notes how the benefits of helmets may be over estimated (something also explored in this post from Greater Greater Washington). It goes on to make another important point:

The biggest problem with a study that only looks at people who have been in a serious bicycle collision or accident is that it does not take into account other much more important bike safety factors, such as those that prevent collisions from happening in the first place. The single most important one: Safety in Numbers.

I tend to think helmets are a good idea, while helmet laws — especially for adults — are not. But that’s really not the point and, like the author of the Seattle post, it’s not what I want to debate. Instead, the point is that the best things we can do to make biking a bigger part of our cities is to make it easier and to make the overall environment safer.

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