If bike share has people skipping the helmet, it's not leading to tickets | KUOW News and Information

If bike share has people skipping the helmet, it's not leading to tickets

Sep 20, 2017

It's illegal to ride a bike without wearing a helmet in Seattle and greater King County.

Since three bike sharing companies launched in the city, however, there's been a lot of talk about how that law is enforced.

The data shows that if in fact more people are riding without a helmet, they're not getting tickets.

Tickets for helmet violations are at a seven-year low. That's the trend so far this year, based on data from Seattle's Municipal Court.

In August, the first full month for the new bike vendors, officers ticketed just one cyclist for not wearing a helmet. That's fewer, on average, than the months prior.

A Seattle Police spokesperson said the department's emphasis is on education. Detective Patrick Michaud said it's up to each officer to decide whether to give a citation.

Michaud: "A lot of the times it's going to be if there's a whole bunch of things going on there. We can cite for all of them, we can cite for some of them, we can cite for none of them. Really focusing, again, on that education end of it."

There are 11 types of bike infractions Seattle police can enforce, including improper hand signs, not having brakes, and unsafe passing from the right. Officers have given out 18 no-helmet tickets so far in 2017. Those numbers were in the triple-digits in previous years, including from 2011 to 2014.

Bike shares Ofo, Spin and Limebike don't offer helmets. But every bike comes with a reminder to strap on a helmet, since it's city law.

Helmets have been required in Seattle since 2003, and in greater King County since 1993.