Cohen Law Partners

Bicycle Helmet Laws in California: What's Required?

To protect your safety

To protect your safety when riding a bicycle, a helmet is essential. Many bicyclists who die as a result of a traffic accident were not wearing helmets at the time of their injury. Bicycle helmet laws have made it about four times more likely that cyclists will wear a helmet.

Let's consider some common questions about California bicycle helmet laws:

How Does California Law Define a Bicycle?

A bicycle is any vehicle a person can ride on, propelled solely by human power using gears, a chain or a belt. Further, a bicycle must have at least one wheel. Unlike some items, a bicycle has a straightforward legal definition: If you think something is a bicycle, it probably is.

Who Has to Wear a Bicycle Helmet?

All bicycle riders under the age of 18 must wear helmets in the state of California. Helmets must qualify under rules from at least one of these three organizations

· The Snell Memorial Foundation Standard (ASTM)

· The American Society for Testing Materials (SMF)

· The American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

Some communities require all bicyclists to wear a helmet. These include Bidwell Park, Chico and El Cerrito. Others may adopt similar laws over time. Check with your California municipality to be sure about the latest bicycle laws before you ride. Lawmakers know that bicycle helmet rules are very effective.

How Do I Know if My Bicycle Helmet complies with the CA law?

The manufacturer will label a helmet that complies with all applicable laws and standards. It is illegal to sell any helmet for use in bicycling that does not meet the standards. The helmet labeling should mention which organization's set of standards the helmet meets.

What are the Legal Implications for Not Wearing a Bicycle Helmet in California?


California law permits dismissal of the charge for the first violation of the helmet law. The offender must attend court and state under oath that this is the first offense. After the first offense, the fine is not to be more than $25. Parents must pay a minor's fine.


Many head injuries resulting from a bicycle accident could have been prevented or reduced if the cyclist was wearing a helmet. Many jurors already perceive cyclists as reckless scofflaws. Wearing a helmet communicates to jurors and the public at large that you are a responsible person. Even if a head injury is not claimed, defense attorneys love to hammer away at the argument that the cyclist was not wearing a helmet. And if the cyclist is claiming a head injury, jurors might assign a degree of fault to the cyclist, even though no law requires adults to wear helmets.

The bottom line is this: Many jurors are biased against cyclists. Juries are comprised of members of our community. So everyone on the road with you is a potential juror. The more responsible cyclists appear, the less bias there is against them.

Following bicycle helmet laws in California helps keep people safe. If you are injured in any kind of bicycle accident, it's critical to protect your rights with help from a qualified attorney. To connect with an attorney who understands the risks bicyclists face and who cares about your case, contact The Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney today. 

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