As friends and colleagues watch Citi Bike stations spring up on the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn and envision themselves astride the blue bikes, a common question is: What to do about bike share helmets?

Current helmet-wearing cyclists who plan to add a Citi Bike membership to their public transportation options  have presumably already worked out their systems for carrying  helmets with them.  Still, their routines may not take into account spontaneous trips that represent one of bike share’s biggest advantages.

More to the point, public bike sharing is expected to attract users who are not current cyclists – some of whom may not have put foot to pedal in years — or who are visiting the city and renting the bikes by the day or week. For them, securing a helmet and toting it around at stops along the way could prove unfamiliar territory.

This challenge may be reflected in a study of helmet use among bike share users in Washington and Boston published in the Annuals of Emergency Medicine last year.  It reported bike share riders less likely than bicycle owners to wear helmets, and found protective head gear use generally low among this group.

So, how will newcomers to cycling in New York City cope? First, a word about the law: People over the age of 13, with the exception of working cyclists, are not required to wear helmets while cycling in New York City.  However, Citi Bike, on its website, “strongly encourages you to wear a helmet when you ride.”

Here are some tips:

Save on a helmet: Annual subscribers to Citi Bike receive a coupon (photo below) good for $10 off on a helmet from Bern, Bontrager or Nutcase at an NYC bike shop.

Citi Bike Helmets

Find a bike shop: For visitors to NYC, a list of bike shops by borough appears under the Resources tab on the Citi Bike website, and also will be available on the Citi Bike smartphone app. In addition, some hotels offer helmets for guests to borrow.

Get one free: The NYC Department of Transportation fits and gives away bike helmets at special events throughout the city.  For additional information, call 311, or check the NYC DOT website.

Remind yourself: For regular commutes or rides using bike share – say, from home to work, or as a daily extension of a  subway trip – get in the habit of stowing your helmet close to the door so you won’t forget it.

Plan ahead: Envision how you’re most likely to use bike share. For example, if you think you might take occasional trips across town at lunch to run errands, or will ride the bikes to business meetings, your helmet, or a spare, should live in your workplace.

Snap it: The easiest way to carry a helmet once you dismount at a docking station is to clip the chin-strap around your handbag, briefcase or backpack strap.

Tote it: For those who would rather contain or conceal their helmets, an inexpensive black nylon tote or shoulder bag, of the kind you can carry in a small zipper pouch, is a simple, on-the-go solution.

Readers, do you have additional suggestions to make it easier for new cyclists to wear and carry helmets? Please comment below!

Top: NYC cyclist Shelma Jun wore her helmet on a Citi Bike preview ride in Brooklyn. Photo: velojoy

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5 Responses to What to Do About Bike Share Helmets?

  1. Charlene Paulus says:

    Those crazy little-brim bike hats work to keep away “cooties” from shared helmets.

    • Susi says:

      Charlene, that’s a great idea! Cycling caps are lightweight in warm weather, inexpensive and easy to stow in a bag.

  2. Janice Dougherty says:

    I wore a helmet on my motorcycles for 20+ years, but never wear one for bicycling. I don’t ride fast or dangerous, or do stunts. As a former ER nurse, a former NYPD employee and former Traffic Court clerk, and having checked out the efficacy of those egg carton helmets, as well as being aware of the difference in the way car drivers treat helmeted vs non-helmeted cyclists, I think wearing a helmet is on a par with St. Christopher medals on your rear view mirror – superstition. And I’m an atheist. I have stopped to help fallen cyclists, and it is their shoulders, arms and legs and back that are injured. Should they wear inflatable vests with cervical collars? Do what you want but this hand wringing is NOT productive. Helmets send a message that biking is dangerous. Period.

    • Jeffrey Fritts says:

      Janice,
      I have ridden bicycles all over the world thanks to my service in the Air Force. Since I was a teen I have ridden for a total of 47 years now and counting. I strongly disagree with anyone not wearing a helmet while bicycling. Maybe I am just not as safe a rider as I could be but after the number of miles I have put on bicycles, especially overseas. I have replaced a few helemts after serious crashes. I agree the majority of injuries are to the shoulder, elbow, hands, hips and legs. I once fell and broke a collar bone (a common injury among cyclist, I am told) and in the same fall hit my head against the curb. There is no doubt in my mind my helmet saved me from more serious injury. Please do not diswade cuclist from wearing helmets, especially children.
      Jeffrey Fritts

  3. Charlene Paulus says:

    Janice- I absolutely agree with you in theory and you seem to have the credentials to back up your opinion. That said, I’m the sole support of my family of five and what you would call a knowledge worker. I don’t think helmets should be mandated for adults but I’m still going to wear mine (and maybe I need to get a St. Christopher medal for the car). Seriously, thank you for your insight, you’ve given me something to think about.

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