Policy Factsheet

Bicycle Helmet Use

Reasons for Policy

  • Bicycle-related head injuries and deaths are common and can be prevented, or reduced in severity, with helmet use.1
  • Only 25% of the general population of bicyclists in America use helmets regularly.2
  • Helmet legislation increases bicycle helmet use and decreases head injuries among all age groups.3

Community Groups

  • Law Enforcement
  • Local Government

Policy Components

  • Legislation requiring bicycle helmet use among all cyclists under 16 years old
  • Enforcement of bicycle helmet laws
  • Distribution of bicycle helmets (or incentives to purchase)
  • Education

Desired Outcomes

  • Increase bicycle helmet use
  • Decrease bicycle-related deaths
  • Decrease head injury severity and occurrence

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 1: Evidence-Based Policies Meeting Criteria for Effectiveness.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

  • A 79% increase in the use of bicycle helmets3
  • A 65-88% decrease in bicycle-related head injuries1

Community Examples

Links to Policy Examples

Be sure to check with your state, county, and municipal governments regarding potential existing laws that may impede any new policy development.


  1. Thompson, D, Rivara, F, & Thompson, R (1999). Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in bicyclists. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 1999, Issue 4.  

  2. Macpherson, A & Spinks, A (2008). Bicycle helmet legislation for the uptake of helmet use and prevention of head injuries. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2008, Issue 3.  

  3. Karkhaneh, M, Kalenga, J-C, Hagel, BE, & Rowe BH, (2006). Effectiveness of bicycle helmet legislation to increase helmet use: a systematic review. Injury Prevention, 12:76-82.  

  4. Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.