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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Bicycle safety and bike helmets

Bicycling is a marvelous way to get around. Bicycling reduces traffic jams, protects the environment, and is a great source of physical activity. Unfortunately, bicycling is not risk-free. In fact, from 2008 to 2012, each year an average of 3 bicyclists died in King County each year and 45 were severely injured in collisions with motor vehicles.
...Washington Traffic Safety Commission, July 2013

To stay safe, follow Washington's bicycling laws and always wear a helmet! Visit the Washington state Department of Transportation's Bicycle Laws page to learn more about bicyclist responsibilities and state laws. For safety tips, check out the King County Department of Transportation's bicycle safety page.

Bike helmets

Wear a helmet! It's the law!

In July 2003, the King County Board of Health extended the King County bike helmet regulation (PDF) to include Seattle. The new rule went into effect in August 2003 and requires that all bicyclists (regardless of age) must wear a helmet.

Bicyclists throughout the county can be cited for not wearing helmets. Avoid fines, fees, and injuries by wearing a bike helmet!

How to fit a helmet

A review of several published studies estimated that bike helmets provide a 63-88% reduction in the risk of head, brain, and severe brain injury for all ages of bicyclists.
...Thompson DC. Cochrane Review 1999, updated 2009.

In order for the bike helmet to protect you, it needs to fit properly. Watch the Ask KOMO: Bike Helmet Safety video for fitting tips and follow these easy tips to wearing a helmet correctly:

  • Make sure your helmet is the right size. Try on several helmets before buying one. The helmet should fit comfortably. If needed, use extra pads for a snug and secure fit.
  • Make sure the straps fit around your ear and under your chin snugly. The straps should form a "V" under your ears. Leave enough room for one finger to fit between your chin and the strap.
  • The helmet should rest flat on your head, not too far forwards or backwards. The helmet should rest low on the forehead, no more than two finger widths above the eyebrows.
  • Look for the CPSC or SNELL certification sticker inside the helmet.
  • Get a new helmet when you grow out of it or within 5 years, whichever comes first.
  • Replace your helmet after a crash or if it is cracked.

Bicycle resources

Bicycle helmet

Download list of low-cost bike helmets providers (PDF)
Find out where you can find free or low-cost bike helmets in King County!


Bike Helmets: Quick-Fit Check (PDF)
Check out this easy, three-point check guide from Seattle Children's to make sure your helmet has a proper fit.