In October 2012, the Boston Public Health Commission launched a new campaign to promote bike safety in the city of Boston. The campaign features three images which appear on two dozen posters throughout the city in high bike-traffic areas.
In two images, bikers not wearing helmets have sustained injuries from a crash. In the third, a female biker was protected by her helmet. (See campaign images below)
The posters and stencils on city bike lanes remind riders there are “No Excuses. Wear a Helmet.” Research for the campaign showed that there are a number of reasons riders chose not to wear helmets, like they are uncomfortable, too hot, or result in “helmet hair.”
The overall campaign message is that it is always safer to ride a bike with a helmet than without a helmet.
Q&A about the campaign:
Don’t most bicyclists already wear helmets? Different sources show different results. Survey counts by Boston Bikes have shown, on average, more than 70 percent of the riders they saw wore helmets. A recent study, published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine and reported in the Boston Globe, cited research documenting a Boston helmet use rate of 48 percent. Either rate demonstrates that more can be done to promote universal helmet use and prevent head and brain injuries.
I know a helmet will protect my head, but will it protect my face? Yes. Emergency department and trauma doctors say that when worn correctly, a properly fitted helmet reduces the risk of head, brain, and upper face injury. In fact, helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent, the risk of brain injury by 88 percent, and the risk of injury to the upper or mid-face by 65 percent.
Won’t this campaign discourage people from riding bikes in Boston? No. Getting more people to wear helmets every time they ride, and effectively reducing rates of head and brain injuries will make bicycling in Boston a safer and more attractive mode of transportation.
Why do you show injured riders in this campaign? The BPHC and the city of Boston have successfully worked with our partners in promoting the health benefits of bicycling as a physically active, environmentally sound way to get around the city. We have helped to make Boston one of the best cycling cities in America. Like other forms of transportation and recreation, such as walking and boating, though, there are some associated risks. Simple things residents can do themselves to reduce their risk of injury include using crosswalks when walking and wearing personal flotation devices or “life jackets” when boating. This campaign reminds residents that head, brain, and facial injuries are very serious risks of falling off of a bike without a helmet. Wearing a helmet every time you ride will ensure that you enjoy the health benefits of bicycling and protect yourself against head injury.
What else is the city of Boston doing to make the streets safer for bikers? The city of Boston, supported by BPHC and a coalition including emergency department doctors and other hospital staff, cycling advocates, and community leaders, has taken a comprehensive approach to promoting safe bike riding in the city. These efforts have included adding more than 50 miles of new, connected bike lanes; providing more than 500 reduced-cost Hubway memberships; creating more than 2,500 new bike parking spaces; working with more than 10,000 youth through programs like Roll it Forward; and distributing more than 6,000 helmets. In addition, the Boston Police Department has issued more than 2,000 parking tickets for bicycle lane violations to motor vehicles in the city, and also distributes helmets to riders. Finally, safety pamphlets educating drivers on sharing the road are distributed with vehicle excise tax bills. Effective injury prevention can occur on multiple levels simultaneously, though. We can all do our part! Wearing a helmet when bicycling is one effective way riders can protect themselves every time they ride.
Isn’t increasing ridership more important for bike safety (i.e. safety in numbers)? In some studies in other cities, lower rates of accidents were seen on roads with higher numbers of cyclists. While this research is promising, bike helmets still remain the single most effective way to reduce the risk of head and brain injuries. In fact, the protective effect of helmets has been shown in at least seven independent studies and at least three systematic reviews. Six other studies have shown that increasing helmet use was linked to lower rates of head injuries. So, don’t wait for “safety in numbers.” Protect yourself by wearing a helmet every time you ride.
Where can I get a helmet? The BPHC Injury Prevention Program works to reduce the risk of head injury by providing low-cost helmets to the community in Boston. Helmets for $5.00 are available at the Boston Medical Center Gift Shop. Organizations can also place orders for helmets (at $5.00 per unit cost) to be delivered on site for individual distribution or for health fairs and local events. To request discounted helmets, complete and return this application.
BPHC works with community-based organizations to ensure that free and low cost helmets are available in Boston neighborhoods. This summer, BPHC donated helmets to Boston Cyclists Union for distribution through their Bike to Market program. Helmets were available at farmers markets in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, East Boston and Charlestown among others; and were also distributed through other partners, including: CommonWheels Bicycle Collective, Mattapan Food and Fitness, RoxComp Community Health Center, MA Affordable Housing Alliance, South Side Head Start (Part of ABCD), Mass College of Art & Design, Harvard University, South Boston Neighborhood House PreSchool, and Boston Emergency Medical Services.
Learn more about Bicycling Rules of the Road and Bicycle Fit & Maintenance.