In California, and about half the other states, the law requires minors to wear a helmet when on bikes. Bike accident statistics strongly support the position that helmets save lives for adults as well as kids involved in bike accidents. But no U.S. state requires adult riders to wear helmets, as many do for motorcycle riders. Some cities, though, including El Cerrito, California, require everyone to bike with a helmet. Where you stand on the question of whether adults should also be required to use helmets for biking probably involves not only you views on safety, but also your views on how much the government should tell us what to do when the only person at risk is ourselves. I have found it interesting to see that in Europe, there are lots more adults using bicycles for urban transportation, and the great majority of them are not wearing helmets. Case in point: the man in Amsterdam biking with a tote bag in the photo with this post.
From a safety perspective, there is strong evidence that helmets make a big difference in bike accidents: an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study showed that over 90 percent of the 714 bicyclists killed in 2008 were not wearing helmets. Even a light blow to the head can result in a minor traumatic brain injury (MTBI). Neurologists and neurosurgeons report that those of us over 30 experience some brain shrinkage, which results in more bouncing around in the skull when we strike our heads.
If you are shopping for a helmet, be sure to choose one that is approved by the Federal Products Safety Commission, which does safety testing for bike helmets. Cycling experts agree that helmets should be replaced after an accident, as the foam can lose some of its ability to absorb impact, even when it appears to be undamaged.