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Bike Helmet Ordinance for Children
About the Ordinance
Girl riding bike with Helmet

Contact
Martin Ince
Multi-Modal Transportation Planner
Email

City of Flagstaff
211 West Aspen Avenue
Flagstaff, Arizona 86001

Ph: (928) 226-4850
Fax: (928) 213-4825
On September 15, 2009, the Flagstaff City Council approved Ordinance 2009-13, which requires all children under the age of 18 to wear a protective helmet while riding a bicycle on any street, road, sidewalk, bikeway, or trail.

The ordinance went into effect on January 1, 2010.

Ordinance Highlights
  • Amends Title 9, Chapter 5 of City Code, which regulates the operation of bicycles.
  • Requires all children under the age of 18 to wear a protective helmet while riding a bicycle.
  • Applies when riding on any street, sidewalk, or trail within the City of Flagstaff.
  • Established a fine of between $25 and $75.
  • The charges can be dismissed if evidence is provided that a helmet has been obtained.

Download the complete text of the adopted ordinance.

Background Information

Riding a bicycle is not inherently a dangerous or risky activity; children are at particular risk because they are less experienced, their judgment is less sure, and motor skills and coordination are still developing.
  • In 2007, 698 bicyclists were killed, and an estimated 43,000 were injured in traffic-related crashes in the U.S. Children under the age of 16 accounted for 15 percent of the deaths (107 total) and 29 percent of those injured.
  • The injury rate for children ages 5 to 15 is almost double the injury rate for all bicyclists. In 2007 the bicycle injury rate for children was 281 per million population, while the injury rate for all cyclists was 144 per million population.

Head injuries are a disproportionate risk for bicyclists involved in a crash, and for children the risk is even higher.
  • More than 40 percent of all bicycle-related deaths are due to head injuries.
  • Non-helmeted riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than non-helmeted riders.
  • In 2002, 47 percent of children aged 14 and under who were hospitalized for bicycle-related injuries were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.
  • Approximately three-fourths of all head injuries from bicycle crashes occur among children aged 14 and under.

Bicycle helmets are an effective way to prevent head injuries.
  • A number of studies have found that a high percentage of cyclists’ brain injuries could be prevented by a helmet; estimates range from 45 to 88 percent.
  • It is estimated that 75 percent of fatal head injuries among child bicyclists could be prevented with a helmet.
  • Of all bicyclists killed in traffic crashes in 2006, 95 percent were not wearing helmets.

We all pay a significant, long-term cost for head injuries.
  • The total annual cost of traffic-related bicyclist death and injury among children ages 14 and under is more than $2.2 billion.
  • Direct costs of bicyclists' injuries due to not using helmets are estimated at $81 million each year; indirect costs are estimated at $2.3 billion each year. These costs rise with health care costs.
  • Every dollar spent on a bike helmet saves society $30 in direct medical costs and other costs to society.

Helmet laws are an effective way to increase helmet use among children and decrease injuries.
  • Numerous studies have found that helmet laws result in an increase in helmet use among children and a decrease in injuries and fatalities, especially when combined with an enforcement and education campaign.

Sources
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts: Bicyclists and Other Cyclists
  • National SAFE KIDS Campaign, Bicycle Injury Fact Sheet
  • Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute website

Frequently Asked Questions
Will the police use this ordinance to ticket children?
Typically not. The Police Department will use the ordinance as a tool to help with education - a police officer may talk to a child about the importance of wearing a helmet. Tickets may be issued to parents riding with children who are not wearing helmets.

What if I can’t afford a helmet for my child?
National retailers sell children’s bicycle helmets for as little as $20 to $25. In addition, low-cost helmets are available through Flagstaff Biking Organization and the Coconino County Safekids Coalition. In 2008 alone, Safekids and Flagstaff Biking Organization distributed more than 1,000 helmets to kids in grades K-6.

Do other communities have similar ordinances?
According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, 22 states and almost 200 municipalities in the U.S. have mandatory helmet laws for bicycle riders. Almost all of the laws are specific to children. In Arizona, four communities (Tucson, Yuma, Sierra Vista, and Pima County) have mandatory helmet laws for children under 18. New Mexico, Oregon, and California have statewide bicycle helmet laws for children.

Does the ordinance include children riding in trailers?

Yes. Children riding in trailers, on child bike seats, and on trail-a-bikes are required to wear a helmet under the ordinance.

What about babies?
The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), as well as most injury prevention experts, recommend against taking infants (less than 12 to 14 months) in a bicycle child seat, trailer, sidecar or any other carrier. Children are just learning to sit unsupported at about nine months of age. Until this age, infants have not developed sufficient bone mass and muscle tone to enable them to sit unsupported with their backs straight. Pediatricians advise against having infants sitting in a slumped or curled position for prolonged periods, and the problems caused by sitting in a slumped position may be exacerbated by the added weight of a bicycle helmet on the infant’s head.

How much is the fine?
The ordinance specifies a fine of between $25 and $75.

Can the fine be waived?
Yes. If you provide evidence to the court that you purchased or obtained a bicycle helmet, the court may dismiss the charges. Please note that a dismissal is only possible for your first ticket.

Where does the helmet ordinance apply?
Children are required to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle on “any highway, street, road, sidewalk, bikeway or trail” within the City of Flagstaff. This includes the City’s FUTS trails.