Bike Helmets—this Week’s Bane of our Existence

Published Date: August 22nd, 2008
Category: Weekly Thought


G turned to me with tears in his little eyes and blurted out,


“I don’t like it too tight. I like it just perfect.”


And then our argument was over.


I hugged him and said,


“I know. God help you, I totally know.”


Poor G had already inherited my hatred of tight things around my head (headbands, hats, earmuffs, sunglasses, glasses. You name it, I hated it) and to be honest, I cannot imagine how I will ever wear a bike helmet if my fat ass should somehow decide to go biking.


As we sat there holding each other, glaring at the bike helmet, all I could think of was ‘would it be so bad? Would one little ride down to neighbor Tom’s without a bike helmet really be THAT bad?’


And you can hold onto your stories about massive head injuries because in the end, I did not do it. I stuck with the law of “No bike helmet, no bike.” So now G’s kick-ass Caterpillar bike that my father SPECIAL ORDERED directly from Caterpillar prior to his retirement from the tractor/generator industry, sits pertly in our dining room, with the bike helmet resting jauntily on its handlebars.


We never wore bike helmets growing up in the 70s and we did some SERIOUS big-wheeling, biking, and roller skating on various moving paraphernalia that was not so safe. I do recall jumping over a pile of sticks in my STRAP ON Fisher Price roller skates, falling down (probably on my head), and I am still here.


So parents who grew up in the 1970s, I did a little research and what I found out was enough to make me not only stick with the “no helmet, no bike” rule, but I will now be purchasing a properly-fitting bike helmet for G and sadly, discarding our helmet that was bought solely because of its color (blue) and design (jolly little swimming fish).


Anyway, let’s see if these stats scare you:


  • According to Safe Kids USA1 (a network of organizations whose objective is to prevent accidental childhood injury), more than 130 children die from bicycle-related injuries every year, approximately 270,000 are treated in emergency rooms and of these ER visits, nearly half (47%) of the injured children leave with traumatic brain injuries.
  • Almost 75% of children’s bicycle-related fatalities might have been prevented with a bicycle helmet.
  • Non-helmeted riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than helmeted riders.


And if you are like me, then you are probably thinking that a little bike trip down the driveway or sidewalk for your newly-minted biker (the bike has training wheels, for God’s sake) sans helmet will do no harm. Again, according to Safe Kids USA, nearly 60% of all childhood bicycle-related deaths occur on minor roads and children 4 and under are more likely to be injured in low-traffic areas around the home (e.g. driveway, sidewalk, yard) than are children ages 5 to 14.


And for the TOTAL skeptics who just went out and hurriedly bought a bike helmet at Target that your child picked out because it was blue and had fishes on it, one study found that children whose helmets fit poorly are at twice the risk of head injury in a crash compared with children whose helmets fit appropriately (Foss and Beirness 2000)2.


Now since I have a child who cannot stand wearing ANYTHING tight on his head, this last scary statistic left me wondering how a bike helmet SHOULD fit. Again, Safe Kids USA gave me this helpful bike helmet fitting hint: use the “Eyes, Ears and Mouth” test. The rim of the helmet should be one to two finger-widths above the eyebrows, the straps should form a “V” just below the ear lobe, the buckle should be flat against the skin and the strap should feel snug when the rider’s mouth is open.


I hope that your kids (or you, at least) are way ahead of us in this bike helmet crusade. I am sure they have appropriately-fitting AND jazzy helmets that they love and have no problem wearing. So if you are one of these parents might I ask a favor: can your child “influence” G to wear his bike helmet? And if he cannot, your child will at least get a pretty sweet ride on G’s awesome Caterpillar bike.



1Statistics accessed on August 22, 2008 at:


2Foss RD, Beirness DJ. Bicycle helmet use in British Columbia: Effects of the helmet use law. April 2000. Accessed on August 22, 2008 at:




This entry was posted on Friday, August 22nd, 2008 at 1:25 pm and is filed under Weekly Thought. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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