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Bicycle Helmets in Portland: Necessary or Not?

The need for cyclists to wear bicycle helmets is a hotly debated issue, and it’s not just a matter of personal preference. Helmet laws have been repeatedly proposed, both in Portland and around the country. While Portland, like many areas, does have helmet laws requiring children under the age of 16 to wear a helmet, efforts to pass a law covering adults in the city have been thus far unsuccessful.

At the center of the debate is the issue: do bicycle helmets keep cyclists safer, and do they provide safety to such a degree that they should be made mandatory? Injuries due to bicycling accidents cause serious and often life-threatening damages. If helmets can help prevent these injuries, shouldn’t their use be mandatory?

While proponents of bicycle helmet laws say yes, many avid cyclists say the choice should be theirs.

Do Bicycle Helmets Help Prevent Injuries?

Almost 800 cyclists were involved in bicycle accidents in 2013, and another 48,000 were injured. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common injuries received by cyclists are head and brain injuries. Head injuries can result in paralysis and even death, while traumatic brain injuries (TBI) may adversely affect literally every aspect of the sufferer’s life, including thought, speech, movement, and memory.

The CDC points out that one of the best ways for cyclists to prevent injuries, specifically head and brain injuries, is by wearing a helmet. For the CDC and other helmet proponents, it’s an uphill battle; of the millions of people who ride bicycles, only about half of them wear a helmet.

For the purpose of educating the public and advocating for the use of bicycle helmets, the CDC recommends the following 4 steps:

  • Inform people of the issues, and let them know that thousands die each year as a result of head injuries due to bicycle accidents;
  • Educate the general public and be vocal about the dangers of head injuries for cyclists who ride without a helmet;
  • Remind parents to be role models for their children and to wear a helmet while cycling; and
  • Advise people you know who ride without helmets of the serious and potentially life threatening impacts caused by head injuries.

Helmet Laws: Do They Violate Personal Freedoms?

While most cyclists admit that wearing a helmet is a valuable safety precaution, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want helmet use to be mandated by law. In fact, many cycling enthusiasts are vehemently against helmet laws, arguing that such laws are an intrusion on their personal freedoms, and divert attention away from public accountability for cyclists’ safety.

A recent article in the North Coast Journal cited numerous statistics invalidating helmet laws. In addition to the statistics offered, the writer made the point that helmet laws shift responsibility for bicycle safety from the community to the bikers themselves. This shift in focus could mean decreased efforts in cities such as Portland to establish greenways and biking trails and paths that make bicycling the city convenient and enjoyable.

Contact The Johnston Law Firm

At the Johnston Law Firm, we care about bicyclist’s rights and safety. Bicycle accidents happen, regardless of whether or not the cyclist was wearing a helmet. If you or someone you know has been injured due to a bicycling accident, contact our experienced Portland personal injury attorneys right away. Our attorneys will fight to get you the compensation you deserve as a result of your injuries. Call us today for a free review of your case.


Marc Johnston

Lead Attorney at Johnston Law Firm, P.C.

Based in downtown Portland, Marc A. Johnston is the owner and managing attorney of the award-winning, internationally-known personal injury law firm, Johnston Law Firm, P.C. Marc's career has been dedicated to representing the injured and individuals who have been treated unfairly by an insurance company. His focus on trial law creates the backbone of the Johnston Law Firm — a firm that is ready to go the distance in seeking justice for its clients.