When children are learning to cycle it’s a good opportunity to get them in the habit of wearing a cycle helmet. What should you look for when buying one and how should they wear it?
Your Child and Cycle Helmets
- Although in the UK neither children nor adults have to wear a cycle helmet by law, it is a legal requirement in countries such as Australia and is recommended by many road safety and medical professionals.
- Helmets can protect your head if you fall off your bike even if there are no cars around eg if you are going fast down a hill and hit a stone or pothole.
- In Holland with its flat landscape and extremely good infrastructure of segregated cycle ways cycle-helmet wearing is rare even for children learning to cycle.
- Safety measures such as helmets can never provide complete protection and helmets do not prevent accidents. It is important that your children also have good cycle training to help keep them safe.
- If a dislike of cycle helmets is putting your child off cycling, it’s up to you to decide on whether to insist or let them cycle without. Although we want our children to be safe, the long-term health benefits of cycling are massive too.
- For some great ideas for persuading reluctant helmet-wearers see http://www.bhsi.org/kidswear.htm
Buying a Cycle Helmet for Your Child
- Buy from a reputable source and do not buy second-hand – you may not be able to see any damage on a used helmet.
- Make sure your child is with you when you buy it – you will need to check the fit is correct and it is comfortable.
- Let you child help choose their helmet – if they like it they will be happy to wear it.
- Consider a bright colour helmet – even if it is not ‘high vis’ it will help them to be seen better than a black one (as long as your child likes it). Some helmets have reflective elements which help night-time visibility.
- Check the helmet is marked with the recognised safety standard for your country.
- Features such as air vents are good for serious distance cyclists but not necessary for children… you don’t need to pay a lot for a child’s helmet.
- Adjust the straps correctly when your child is trying a helmet on.
- Put your finger under the clip when trying on so it doesn’t pinch the skin… or you will really put your child off wearing a helmet!
- After any accident or strong impact on the helmet, make sure the helmet is disposed of and replaced with a new one.
How to Wear a Cycle Helmet
- Ensure the helmet is the correct size. It should fit snugly and be comfortable to wear.
- When the child shakes or nods their head the helmet should remain secure.
- The helmet rim should sit on the forehead, just above the eyebrows.
- The helmet should NOT be tilted back leaving the forehead exposed or tipped so far forward it covers the eyes and obstructs the child’s ability to see.
- The straps must not be twisted and there should be no slack in them. Most helmet straps form a ‘V’ shape just under the ear lobe.
- Ensure the helmet does not affect the child’s ability to hear. Listening is an important part of cycling safety.
- Always check the manufacturers’ instructions on fitting advice.
- This section of text courtesy of the Cycle-Smart Foundation.
As an adult, whether you wear a cycle helmet may depend where you are and the local conditions. Here a teenager and older woman cycle to the shops (without helmets) at Venice Lido, Italy where there are few cars, many cyclists, a flat landscape and safe cycle routes.