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Prevalence of helmet use by users of bicycles, push scooters, inline skates and skateboards in Toronto and the surrounding area in the absence of comprehensive legislation: an observational study
  1. Jessica L Page1,
  2. Alison K Macpherson2,
  3. Tara Middaugh-Bonney2,
  4. Charles H Tator3
  1. 1Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  2. 2School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, Toronto, Canada
  3. 3Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr CH Tator, Toronto Western Hospital, McLaughlin Pavilion, 12th Floor Rm 423, 399 Bathurst St., Toronto, Ontario M5T 2S8, Canada; charles.tator{at}


Background Legislation in the province of Ontario, Canada, mandates users under the age of 18 to wear a helmet when they ride a bicycle, and legislation has been shown to significantly increase rates of bicycle helmet use. Legislation does not exist in Ontario for older bicyclists or for users of other non-motorised modes of transportation, and there are no current data available regarding rates of helmet use in these categories. This study was designed to determine the prevalence of helmet use among users of bicycles, skateboards, push scooters and inline skates in Toronto, Ontario, and the surrounding area. Further analysis was performed to examine factors associated with helmet use.

Methods We performed a cross-sectional, observational study. Three trained, stationary observers captured 6038 users of bicycles (5783), skateboards (77), inline skates (165) and push scooters (13) in the summer of 2009. Observations were separated into three time periods capturing commuters, midday users and recreational users. A general linear model was used to assess the factors associated with helmet use among bicyclists.

Results Helmets were worn by 48.9% of all users observed and 50.0% of all bicyclists. Among bicyclists, females were more likely to wear helmets than males (prevalence ratio 1.27, 95% CI 1.17 to 1.36), while children were significantly more likely to wear helmets than adults (prevalence ratio 1.17, 95% CI 1.37 to 2.15). Significant behavioural variation was observed among users during the three observation periods (p<0.001), with commuters being the most likely to wear a helmet.

Conclusion In the absence of comprehensive legislation encompassing all ages of users, only half of users of non-motorised, wheeled transportation devices are choosing to wear a helmet to protect against traumatic brain injury. Implementation of evidence-based strategies to increase helmet use, such as the introduction of legislation encompassing all ages and all equipment, is required.

  • Bicycling/legislation & jurisprudence
  • bicycling/trends
  • head protective devices/utilization
  • cross-sectional studies
  • helmet
  • traffic
  • epidemiologic
  • pedestrian
  • bicycle
  • sports
  • spinal cord
  • preventative
  • head injury
  • concussion
  • behaviour change
  • public health
  • implementation/translation
  • legislation
  • community

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval York University Research Ethics Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.