Bill revised after adult cyclists balk at helmet requirement

Helmets for cyclists
A cyclist wearing a helmet rides past Los Angeles City Hall in 2012.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A bill that would have required all bicycle-riding adults to wear a helmet in California has been scaled back following wide opposition from numerous bicycling organizations.

SB-192, written by state Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge), was introduced earlier this year and sought to expand the law making helmets, currently mandatory for cyclists under 18, required for everyone.

Violators incur a $25 citation, the same price Liu was proposing for adults.

But a number of bike groups such as the California Bicycle Coalition and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition say a helmet mandate could discourage people from getting on a bike in the first place.


Tamika Butler, executive director of the latter group, told Times Community News that some riders come from low-income communities, where they’re less likely to be able to afford a helmet or other riding accessories.

“We look forward to working with Sen. Liu and the rest of the Legislature on increasing funding for better infrastructure — like protected bike lanes — and more education for both people who drive and bike,” Butler said in a statement. “These are measures that will truly help make our communities healthy, safe, and fun places for everyone that rides and everyone that wants to.”

The reaction did not come as a surprise, as research showed bike groups have consistently opposed mandatory adult helmet laws in other states, said Robert Oakes, Liu’s legislative director.

The revised bill language is now asking the state’s Office of Traffic Study to work with the California Highway Patrol to investigate helmet use and report back in early 2017.


“The hope is that OTS and the CHP can examine current bicycle helmet use and accident reports to determine what percentage of adults do not wear a helmet when they ride a bike, and also determine how many deaths and injuries would have been prevented if those riders had been required to wear helmets,” Oakes said in an email.

Mikailian writes for Times Community News

Get our Essential California newsletter