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Wherever you're cycling, you'll want to make sure you follow the bicycle helmet laws. Even if wearing a bike helmet wasn't mandatory by law, it would still be highly recommended for you to do so. It is by far the most effective way to protect yourself from head injuries in the event of a fall. Nevertheless, wearing a helmet is compulsory in certain parts of the United States as well as various countries around the globe. It would be wise to familiarize yourself with these bicycle helmet laws so you don't inadvertently run afoul of them.

Bicycle Helmet Laws Around The World

Whatever your stance on the debate is, the fact remains that cycling without a helmet is illegal in some places and offenders will elicit a hefty fine. Let's study some of the bicycle helmet laws around the world.

United States

There is no federal bicycle helmet law which makes helmet use by cyclists mandatory. Bicycle helmet use is, however, mentioned in the legislation of 21 states in addition to the District of Columbia and several US-owned islands. In almost all these cases, helmet use is mandated only for younger riders below a certain age.

  • In Alabama, Connecticut, D.C, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island and Tennessee, the age limit is 16.
  • In California, Delaware, New Mexico and the Northern Mariana Islands, the age limit is 18.
  • In Louisiana, the age limit is 12.
  • In New Jersey and Massachusetts, the age limit is 17.
  • In West Virginia, the age limit is 15.
  • In the Virgin Islands, all cyclists must wear a helmet.

There are a total of 14 states whose state legislation does not contain any mention of bicycle helmet laws. In these states, riders of all ages have complete freedom of choice when it comes to helmet use. These states are Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming.

Australia and New Zealand

  • There are only two countries in the world where the use of bicycle helmets is compulsory for all cyclists. There are Australia and New Zealand.
  • In 1992, the whole of Australia adopted cycling bicycle laws. The law is taken very seriously and all offenders will be fined.
  • Cycling in New Zealand without a bicycle helmet has been illegal since 1994. Offenders will first be slapped with a $55 infringement fee and when they are summarily convicted, may face fines as high as $1000.
  • Australia and New Zealand are highly popular destinations for cycling vacations due to their spectacular natural landscapes, so remember to follow their bicycle helmet laws if you decide to visit.

Europe

If you want to cycle helmet-free, Europe is the best place to do it. Hardly any European countries impose laws on the use of cycling helmets.

  • In France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Holland and Switzerland, cyclists may cycle helmet-free without flouting any laws, but do so at their own risk.

  • In the Czech Republic, cyclists under 18 years of age must wear bike helmets.

  • In Iceland, Sweden and Slovenia, all cyclists under 15 years of age must don helmets. Keep your eyes peeled for developments in Iceland as there has been talk of extending the helmet regulations to adults.

  • In Finland, cyclists must wear helmets, but offenders will only be cautioned and cannot be fined.

Did you know...?

Did you know that in a well-publicized study by the United Kingdom's Transport Research Laboratory, the researchers found that between 10 and 16 percent of cycling fatalities could potentially have been prevented if the victims were wearing a helmet?

So, remember that helmet laws are not enacted because the authorities want to make life hard for cyclists. They exist to save lives.

The Debate on Bicycle Helmet Laws

Some cyclists are enraged to hear that wearing a bicycle helmet is mandatory by law. They denounce it as an affront to their freedom. Others think that bicycle helmet laws are a good thing as they help to prevent injuries and loss of life to cyclists. As an avid cyclist, you should take your time to familiarize yourself with both sides of the bicycle helmet law debate.

Pro Bicycle Helmet Laws

Of all cyclists who die from cycling-related injuries, head trauma is the leading cause of death. The government has to protect its citizens from harm. Thus, they should make cycling without helmets illegal to give cyclists the best possible chance of survival in the event of a nasty fall.

Against Bicycle Helmet Laws

If the cyclist decides to take the risk of cycling without a helmet, that is his choice and he will pay the price in the event of a fall. The government has no right to curtail his freedom to do so.

Summary

I've covered helmet regulations in the world's most popular cycling destinations, but the pro-helmet movement is gaining ground all the time as more governments adopt bicycle helmet laws in a bid to save lives. Before you embark on a cycling trip, always remember to check the helmet laws at your destination.

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