Sports Law • Risk Management

July 13, 2010: Bicycle Helmets: Safety or Fashion Statement?

As a certified triathlon official and triathlon safety director, I never cease to be amazed and appalled at the practice of athletes wearing bicycle helmets as hats. The USA Triathlon Competitive Rules (as well as ITU rules) require that the chin strap of the helmet be buckled. The athletes generally comply by buckling their chin straps, but for some reason the strap is so loose that it dangles somewhere around their neck waddle (if they are in my age group or older). The chin strap swings with their movements as they mount their bikes. One false move and their helmets will fly off their heads. Certainly, the chin strap will do nothing to hold the helmet on in a crash. My only hope is that an athlete that makes a practice of wearing a swinging chin strap will have the good sense to make sure that the helmet matches his or her outfit as I can only assume that the helmet is being used as an accessory rather than as a safety device.

It is horrifying that this practice is even more prevalent in kid’s triathlons. For some reason, parents make sure that their children are equipped with a safe bike and helmet. Parents’ faces beam as they snap pictures of their children riding out of T-1 on their shiny bikes, with helmet chin straps swinging as low as a jump rope. Do these parents not notice that little Emma or Joshua has no head protection if they crash? Did these parents feed their kids lead paint chips for breakfast too?

Please, do me a favor….tighten up that chin strap and make a safety rather than fashion statement.