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As Divvy bikesharing grows in popularity in Chicago, the debate about helmets grows accordingly. While advocated by many lawmakers, helmets are not legally mandated throughout the city for most riders. In Illinois, only bike messengers and delivery people on bikes are required by law to wear helmets. Any other adults have a choice. In most of Chicagoland, children similarly have no obligation to wear helmets.
Because of these laws (or lack thereof), many people choose not to wear helmets, especially when using Divvy bikes. While Divvy does encourage cyclists to use their own helmets, they have expressed little worry about potential declining use. In general, the cycling community has expressed little worry about fewer people using helmets. In fact, some organizations and advocates regard this change positively. While there has been some push for more encompassing bike helmet laws, it is unlikely that they will be required in Chicagoland any time soon.
A large reason for the wide debate about helmet laws in Chicago is that people are not in agreement on whether or not helmets are worth wearing. There are both valid pros and cons of helmet use. The main pro of helmet use is safety. In the event of a cycling accident, you are much less likely to suffer a serious head injury or to die if you are wearing a helmet. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 70 percent of cyclists’ deaths from fatal accidents are associated with head injuries. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute goes on to add that cyclists not wearing a helmet are actually 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those using helmets. This makes a compelling case for the safety benefits of helmets. In fact, according to the NHTSA helmets are “the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities from bicycle crashes.”
Some advocates, on the other hand, argue that this only presents part of the picture. After all, much more than simple headgear determines the safety of cyclists. Our awareness of cyclists impacts the way we act around them. Since helmet laws reduce the use of bicycles, a major con of required helmet use is that it decreases the number of riders and thus the public’s awareness of bicyclists. This decreases Chicago’s overall safety for cyclists. Similarly, the inconvenience of helmets discourages the use of programs like Divvy. This decreases the number of cyclists throughout the city. If there is safety in numbers, requiring helmet use only diminishes this protection. Even when helmets are a personal choice, some argue that risky behavior increases when people use helmets, thus negating the overall protection of bicycle helmets.
In the end, whether or not you want to use a helmet in Chicago on your bike is mostly up to you. There are advantages and disadvantages to wearing a helmet or not. The most important thing to remember is that you still should carefully follow traffic laws and ride with care no matter what. In the event that you are in an accident and injured, helmets may or may not help. Either way, though, you may deserve compensation for any damage caused by the negligence of others. It helps to discuss this with an experienced attorney. Our car accident attorneys serve clients throughout the Chicago area, including Aurora, Elgin, Hinsdale, Joliet, Naperville, and Waukegan. Call Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. to speak with a Chicago injury lawyer in a free consultation at (312) 236-2900. We will fight for you, helmet or not.