The City That Never Sleeps… Or Wears a Helmet: Study Co-authored by Lehman College Professor

November 25, 2013 | Lehman College

A new article co-authored by a Lehman College professor finds that more than eighty-five percent of CitiBike riders in New York City do not wear a helmet as they navigate city streets.

Professor Danna Ethan of the Health Sciences Department, and her four co-authors, observed 1,054 cyclists for forty-four hours at the twenty-two busiest CitiBike locations for an article just published in the new issue of The Journal of Community Health.

“The consistency of non-helmet use was striking,” said Prof. Ethan, who has worked at the College since 2010.  “It didn’t matter what time of day it was, or the location, or whether the cyclist was taking a bike or returning it, it was always roughly the same percentage of riders not wearing helmets.”

The article notes that in 2012, there were 3,882 injuries and 18 fatalities involving a cyclist and a motor vehicle in New York; nearly all serious injuries (or fatalities) occurring since 1996 involved a cyclist who wasn’t wearing a helmet.

As the CitiBike program grows—plans to add 4,000 more rental bikes in Manhattan and Brooklyn are underway—more riders will share the road with New York City traffic, other riders, and often distracted pedestrians.

“To better understand why so few riders are wearing helmets, factors that hinder and promote helmet use should be assessed,” said Dr. Ethan. “Understanding what it would take to increase helmet use can help public health efforts make it more feasible for riders to access and wear inexpensive but durable helmets.”

“CitiBike is a great program that can contribute to increased physical activity and at the same time help reduce carbon emissions,” said Professor Corey Hannah Basch, an Assistant Professor of Public Health at William Paterson University, who co-authored the article along with Prof. Ethan. “However, given that such a high proportion of riders do not use helmets while riding in busy urban streets, education is needed to help people make informed decisions about reducing their risk of head injuries by wearing a helmet while cycling.”