Statement: Helmet Laws, Bicycle Licensing Are Counterproductive to Making NYC Streets Safer

Statement of Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Marco Conner:
Joseph Cutrufo -
(646) 873-6027

“Mayor de Blasio said on Wednesday that he is considering making helmet use mandatory for Citi Bike users, and signaled that he supports requiring all bicyclists to obtain licenses. Such practices are known deterrents to cycling, and fail to address the real challenges facing all New Yorkers: a culture and prioritization of cars over people. 

Citi Bike is the nation’s most successful bike share system and boasts more than 10 million trips annually in New York City. Forcing all riders to use a helmet and/or obtain a license would threaten this critical piece of New York City’s public transit system. The mayor should by all means encourage bike helmet use, but mandating the use of helmets is counterproductive. 

Requiring adults to use bicycle helmets has been shown time and again to discourage people from biking. When there are fewer people biking on city streets, we see higher rates of bicyclist crashes and injuries, in part because car and truck drivers become less accustomed to operating around bicyclists. The safest cities for biking and walking in the world do not mandate bike helmets or licenses.

However, if the mayor is seeking to create a safer environment where pedestrians and bicyclists can move safely throughout New York, he should prioritize the rapid implementation of his Green Wave plan, and further prioritize action on Vision Zero to ensure that no more New Yorkers fall victim to car violence. To date, more than 80 pedestrians and bicyclists have been killed on the streets of New York, a significant increase from 2018.”