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Helmets for bicyclists in California: Should they be required for adults?

In California, the law requires kids to wear bike helmets until they turn 17. There is no such requirement for adults - despite the fact that people who are over 20 now make up the vast majority of bicyclist fatalities.

Should bike helmets be required for adults? In this post, we will use a Q & A format to discuss an emerging debate.

Does wearing a helmet really make a bicyclist safer?

The evidence on this is not clear. Obviously a helmet helps protect against brain injuries in the event of a collision or a fall.

But it may also be that drivers of motorized vehicles give bicyclists more room if the cyclists aren't wearing helmets. And bicyclists wearing helmets may take risks that those without helmets.

Is bike riding really all that dangerous?

Yes, it can be. Nationally, there were 726 people who lost their lives in such accidents in 2014, many of them in California.

In recent years, more than 100 Californians a year have lost their lives in bike accidents.

Non-fatal injuries from bike accidents are also very common. Even if the head is protected, hitting the concrete can cause ligament damages, broken bones and other injuries.

Do other countries require helmet use for bicyclists?

Americans who visit countries like the Netherlands, where biking is very common, often note that helmet use is unusual there. But this may be due to a number of factors relating to the bike-friendly culture in those countries.

Is California seriously considering requiring helmet use for all bicyclists?

The idea is definitely being discussed.

For example, in a recent article in the Sacramento Bee, the executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition made an interesting contribution to the debate. The coalition acknowledges that helmet use has safety benefits.

And yet the coalition is opposed to mandatory helmet laws because it tends to discourage people from biking - and being sedentary is also an even greater health risk than the chance of being in a bike accident.

Are some cities considering requiring licensing for bicyclists?

Like mandatory helmet use for bicyclist, the idea is in play.

Not surprisingly, proponents of bike licensing point in particular to San Francisco as a city where that would make sense.

Are there other things local governments can do to promote bike safety?

Of course there are. Adding more bike lanes and more infrastructure protections for pedestrians is only the start. There also needs to be more clarity on the rules of the road for bicyclists, such as whether it is permissible to ride a bike through the crosswalk or on the sidewalk.

What if you are injured in a bicycle accident?

If you were seriously injured in a bicycle accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand your legal options for pursuing compensation.

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