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Getting Started with Kid’s Bicycle Helmets

by Josh Lipton

little-girl-with-bike-child-helmet-on-trikeWe’ve just started to sell children’s bike helmets at BikeKidShop.com. I’ve been doing some homework on a variety of issues and considerations surrounding kid’s bike helmets.

There are quite a few different ways for children to get involved in cycling and wearing a children’s bike helmet makes all of these much safer. Think about all of the ways kids can be involved with cycling. As passengers on bicycles kids can ride in bike child trailers, trailer-cycles, in bike child seats, on tandem stoker kits and on specialty bikes such as Bakfiets and the Zigo leader with front child passenger areas. When it comes to the different ways kids ride bike, there are starter devices like, balance bikes, tricycles and bicycles with training wheels.

All of these ways for children to be involved in cycling have their own measure of safety concerns. A good quality bike child helmet is a must-have for protecting your child’s head however it is that they ride a bike. Bike child helmets also serve to protect your children in other fast sports like skateboarding and rollerblading.

It is definitely worth the time to choose a bike helmet that your child enjoys wearing. With all the styles and colors available, your child should certainly be able to pick a helmet out that they like the look of. And with a range of sizes available, they should be able to find something that comfortably fits their noggin as well.

two-kids-on-bike-with-training-wheels-wearing-helmetsThese days, there are quite a few features to consider when choosing a bike helmet. Fortunately, manufacturer like Bell Helmets and Giro Helmets are making great quality products that integrate all of the highest quality features into their helmets.

When choosing a helmet keep in mind the following features: size, fit, ventilation, and straps. Additional helmet features to be aware of are features such as adjustable fit systems, visors and built in lights.

Have a look at the following bike child helmet manufacturer pages on choosing bike helmets:

One of the most important issues to be aware of in choosing a children’s bike helmet is proper fit. Size categories for children’s helmets are generally broken down into the groupings of toddler helmets, child’s helmets and youth helmets. While these names are generally associated with age groups, the most important factor to consider is head size.

Bike Kid Shop uses these sizes to define the following head sizes:

  • toddler: 18″ – 19.75″ (46-50 cm)
  • child: 19.75″ – 21.5″ (50-54 cm)
  • youth: 19.75″ – 22.5″ (50-57 cm)

Other kid’s cycling helmets are of the one-size-fits-all variety sized to fit heads ranging from 18″-22.5″ (46cm-57cm).

Beyond just the size of the helmet, making proper adjustments to the straps and pads can help insure that the helmet is both comfortable and able to provide the maximum safety protection in an accident. Cincinnati Children’s Organization offers up a useful five step set of instructions for fitting on a bicycle helmet. And here is another similar set of bike helmet fitting instructions. Or take a look at the video below.

Wearing bicycle helmets is not only a smart thing to do, in many states it is the law. Most bike helmet laws are targeted at children. The maximum age of these helmet laws vary.

Here are several good resources for staying current of current laws regarding bicycle helmets in the US:

While we are certainly major advocates of children (and everybody else) protecting their head while cycling with a bike helmet, it is worth noting that there are some complex issues to consider as regards to helmet laws. Many arguments have been proposed that bicycle helmet laws might contribute negatively to overall bicycle safety. Treehugger has an excellent post discussing the debate over bicycle helmet laws.

Their conclusions do an excellent job of summarizing the debate:

Conclusions:

1. We need better biking infrastructure to separate us from stupid drivers. That is the lesson from the Netherlands, that we need more cyclists and better bike paths more than we need helmets.

2. Don’t confuse helmets with helmet legislation.
I will concede the point that helmet legislation may cause a reduction in the number of cyclists, which can be counterproductive if we are trying to promote cycling. I might even go so far as to accuse governments of shifting responsibility to the heads of cyclists and away from the drivers of cars by putting cyclists in such lousy infrastructure with lousy drivers.

3. Helmets work. It is silly to say that they don’t; if you are going to crack your head into something they will protect it. If you don’t live in the Netherlands or Copenhagen or somewhere with lots of cyclists and a decent infrastructure, you should wear one.

4. Compromise?
In Ontario, kids have to wear helmets, adults don’t. If you grow up with a helmet on your head or a seatbelt on your lap, you feel naked without it. Eventually, almost everyone will.

In agreeing with the fourth point above, I would say that the argument against helmet laws don’t hold as much weight when it comes to helmet laws specifically geared at children. Children are less able to make sound choices on their own about things such as helmet laws and are much less informed and able to take responsibility for their actions. In addition children may be at greater risk as they are less developed, physically and mentally, to handle some of the risks of cycling. I am interested to find out more about how the introduction of cycling laws impact ridership numbers. Do fewer kids ride bikes when helmet laws are introduced? And how well are the laws obeyed?

Come on Mom, I don't need a helmet

Come on Mom, I don’t need a helmet

 
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One Response to “Getting Started with Kid’s Bicycle Helmets”

  1. Megan says:

    Great post Josh. I’ve been doing some research as well to prepare for when my 8 month old girl will be able to wear a helmet. Make sure to check on the safety certifications. Different types of helmets have different qualifications. The main ones for bike helmets are CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Certification), CE EN1078 (A European safety bike standard), and ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials, usually on helmets that are for both biking and skateboarding). As far as I have seen, all helmets with any of these certifications are well thought out, safe products.

    I have received some feedback from friends on helmets as well. It’s sometimes difficult to chose one because you have to consider how long your child will be able to fit into it, as well as long the helmet will be able to withstand the abuse of your child. It’s a delicate balance. There are two types that I could see. In-molded helmets and non in-molded helmets. Both are equally as safe, but the in-molded helmets, where the helmet is molded as one piece, seem to be able to last the test of time a little bit longer than the non in-molded helmets which are two pieces pressed together. Most of the very young helmets are non in-molded, which makes sense because toddlers will outgrow their helmet in 2-3 years or so. For older children, I would suggest the in-molded style.

    It’s also good to look at how many vents are in the helmet. The helmets use a channeled ventilation system, so the more vents, the more cool air will flow through it. The dual purpose bike/skate helmets have less holes, while the bike specific will have more holes. Visors and fitting systems come in many shapes and sizes. I like the removable visors, and simple fitting systems. You want a quick and easy method for putting a helmet on your child. Bell and Giro both offer a One step system which secures with stretchy straps on the back and sides, and adjusts with a comfy buckle under the chin. They also have two integrated rear lights with a permanent mode as well as a blinking mode. Way cool.

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