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Free-Floating Bikeshare and Helmet Use in Seattle, WA


Wearing a helmet when bicycling prevents traumatic brain injury in the event of a crash. Most cyclists nationwide use helmets when riding. However, the growth of free-floating bike sharing systems, which offer short-term access to bicycles but not helmets, may erode helmet-wearing norms among cyclists. We counted cyclists over several hours at four locations in Seattle, WA. We categorized each rider according to whether he or she was wearing a helmet and to whether or not he or she was riding a bike share bike. Whereas 91% of riders of private bikes wore helmets, only 20% of bike share riders wore helmets. Moreover, in locations where a greater proportion of riders were on bikes hare bikes, fewer riders of private bicycles wore helmets (r = − 0.96, p = 0.04). The impact of bike sharing programs on helmet wearing norms among private bike riders warrants further exploration.

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We thank Smita Stepanova-Pednekar, Kelsie Clebowski, and the participants in the INSIGHT high school summer intern program at the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center. Fred Rivara, Monica Vavilala, Jana Hirsch, and Tony Gomez provided comments on a version of this work.


This work was supported by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shiver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (T32HD057822) and a research grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership.

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Correspondence to Stephen J. Mooney.

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Mooney, S.J., Lee, B. & O’Connor, A.W. Free-Floating Bikeshare and Helmet Use in Seattle, WA. J Community Health 44, 577–579 (2019).

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  • Helmet
  • Injury prevention
  • Bicycling
  • Free-floating bike share