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Cycling is an affordable form of transportation that can improve cardiovascular fitness and reduce the risk of chronic disease while also reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. However, cyclists are considered vulnerable road users with an increased risk of injury and death. In Ontario, helmets have been required for all cyclists under 18 years of age under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act since 1995. However, the enactment of all-age legislation is not universally supported. Some suggest that mandatory helmet legislation would have an overall positive impact on cyclists—increasing helmet use and reducing risk of head injuries without causing a reduction in cycling. Others have argued that cycling legislation may have a negative impact, increasing cyclists’ risk compensation, discouraging cycling use and thus preventing associated health benefits, and that the costs of purchasing helmets to satisfy legislation may exceed any savings in reduced head injuries. Together, these findings suggest the need to evaluate the evidence regarding the overall effectiveness of mandatory bicycle helmet legislation.
The objective of this knowledge synthesis was to evaluate the impact of bicycle helmet legislation for cyclists of all ages, specifically looking at in what contexts, and through what mechanisms, bike helmet laws are effective.
Presenter: Erin Berenbaum
Erin Berenbaum is a research assistant in the Health Promotion, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention (HPCDIP) department at Public Health Ontario (PHO).
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