There are ample reasons in greater Los Angeles to commute on a bicycle instead of a motor vehicle. Weaving through inevitable traffic instead of constantly being stuck in it. Spending your hard-earned money on anything but gasoline and reducing your carbon footprint on a vulnerable planet. Getting exercise. And no snow makes it a year-round activity.

But as most cyclists know, danger from drivers unable or unwilling to share the road lurks at every intersection, crosswalk and bike lane. Nothing is foolproof when your body is exposed to violent collisions with motorized metal. Also, as a cyclist, you likely know that wearing a helmet is vital to reducing your risk of serious injury or death.

Why snap one on?

In the United States in 2018, there 857 bicyclists killed in traffic crashes – an increase of more than 6% from the previous year. Another report by the Cleveland Clinic said about 500,000 bicyclists were injured enough to require an emergency room visit. Head and facial injuries accounted for about two-thirds of the deaths and one-third of the injuries. No wonder.

Crashes can make your head strike the pavement or another vehicle, which can cause traumatic brain injuries that can lead to cognitive dysfunction. The National Highway Transportation Administration said bike helmets are the best way to mitigate head and brain injuries because they are 85 to 88% effective.

But there are other reasons you should wear a helmet while biking:

  • Increase visibility. A helmet with a visor can shield your eyes from rain and sunlight while reflective tape or bright colors can help other drivers see you.
  • Impress your children. A wise choice can set a good example for your children to follow when they hop on their bikes.
  • Flash your personality. Have a favorite sports team? Stick their logo on the helmet. Let your kids paint bunnies or the solar system on theirs to engage them in the habit.

Legislation might encourage more bicyclists to wear helmets, but there are no universal laws mandating all riders wear them. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia require teenage riders and younger to wear helmets. California in 2019 joined them with a law requiring anyone under 18 to use a helmet that meets federal safety standards. Parents can be ticketed with a $25 fine if their child was caught riding without a helmet, although first-time offenses also can be dismissed.

Sharing the road is not always equal

Bicycles and vehicles must share the road, which means their operators share the responsibility to follow all traffic laws and pay attention to each other. Unfortunately, that does not always happen, and often the bicyclist pays the heaviest price.

If you are hurt riding a bike on the roads of Los Angeles, it is important to know the laws that govern the congested streets and cover personal injury. They might determine whether your legal rights were violated and if you are entitled to justice and compensation.