Statement of Purpose Few jurisdictions mandate helmets for adult bicyclists. This research examined how bicycle helmet laws for riders of all ages are being implemented in select jurisdictions across the U.S.
Methods/Approach We selected local all-rider laws that represented a diversity of policy approaches from different regions. We reviewed each locality’s law in-depth using public information, developed a list of organizations and individuals who could inform our understanding of the law, and invited key informants to participate in an interview about the implementation of the helmet law in their jurisdiction.
Results We completed interviews with eleven key informants in three jurisdictions: Greenburgh, NY, King County, WA and Morgantown, WV. Interviewees described a variety of contexts in which the policy was adopted, implemented, and enforced. King County’s law was passed through advocacy built on research about the effectiveness of helmets; Morgantown’s law was passed in response to the death of a high-profile member of the community in a cycling crash. The law is a traffic ordinance in Greenburgh and Morgantown, while King County’s law falls under the county’s public health authority. Greenburgh has taken an educational approach to enforcement, offering helmetless bicyclists information and encouragement; the law in Morgantown was not being actively enforced and the response from law enforcement agencies in King County has ranged from none to punitive. This has led some in King County to criticize the policy for its potential to harm bicyclists of color due to discriminatory enforcement. Interviewees also described the movement to build a transportation infrastructure designed to keep riders safe.
Conclusions There is wide variation in the implementation of local all-rider helmet laws. Injury prevention professionals have a role in assuring that laws enacted to reduce bicycle-related injury are implemented with attention to racial equity and the role of enforcement, along with supportive transportation infrastructure.
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