US children cycling less: helmet laws – Freestyle Cyclists

The Outdoor Industry Association in the US recently published its 2016 report with estimates of outdoor recreation participation in the US in 2015.

The release is reported at cycle-helmets.com, which previously displayed OIA estimates to 2012 that showed the 6-17yo proportion cycling on roads and paved surfaces was 45.2% in 2006 (17,401,000 / 38,457,000) and 31.6% in 2012 (12,397,000 / 39,232,000).

Youth Participation in Outdoor Activities, Ages 6 to 17

2006 Pop % 2007 Pop % 2008 Pop % 2009 Pop % 2010 Pop %
Bicycling (Road/Paved Surface) 17,401,000 34.7% 14,336,000 28.5% 13,325,000 26.8% 13,652,000 27.3% 12,442,000 24.7%
2011 Pop % 2012 Pop % 2013 Pop % 2014 Pop % 2015 Pop %
Bicycling (Road/Paved Surface) 12,330,000 24.3% 12,397,000 24.5% 12,363,000 24.4% 11,610,000 22.7% 10,696,000 20.8%

Participation in Outdoor Activities, All Americans Ages 6+

2006 Pop % 2007 Pop % 2008 Pop % 2009 Pop % 2010 Pop %
Bicycling (Road/Paved Surface) 38,457,000 14.0% 38,940,000 14.1% 38,114,000 13.6% 40,140,000 14.3% 39,320,000 13.9%
2011 Pop % 2012 Pop % 2013 Pop % 2014 Pop % 2015 Pop %
Bicycling (Road/Paved Surface) 40,348,000 14.1% 39,232,000 13.7% 40,888,000 14.1% 39,725,000 13.6% 38,280,000 13.0%

These new figures show the 6-17yo proportion of all cyclists was 45.2% in 2006 (17,401,000 / 38,457,000) and 27.9% in 2015 (10,696,000 / 38,280,000), i.e. down from 31.6% in 2012.

In other words, the number of 6-17yo Americans cycling on roads and paved surfaces fell by 6,705,000 or 38.5% over the 10 years.

The 6+ participation was down by 177,000 from 2006 to 2015 which, because of population growth, represents a 1.0% drop in population percentage, i.e. adult road cycling in the US has increased by a bit over 6.5 million over the past decade and all the reduction has been among 6-17yo who are subject to mandatory helmet laws in half the American states (in all states if parental, school and local government coercion is taken into account). Overall, 6+ road cycling participation in 2015 was 2,068,000 fewer than in 2011.

It is bizarre that participation data such as this receives no publicity while Americans puzzle over why their kids are the fattest on earth.

2 Comments

  • As on the linked cycle-helmets.com page, it’s worth noting that the National Sporting Goods Administration in the US has also conducted surveys of American cycling participation since 1995 … a different survey structure but with similar results to the Outdoor Industry Association.

    The NSGA surveys estimated 56,308,000 Americans rode bicycles in 1995 at least six times a year, but participation dropped 17,008,000 or 30.2% by 2012 to 39,300,000. The 2012 NSGA figure is very close to the OIA estimate for 2012 of 39,232,000, so there’s reason to have confidence in the accuracy of the 1995 survey estimate.

    The OIA estimate for 2015 is 952,000 fewer than 2012 so it can be argued there are 17,960,000 fewer Americans aged 6+ cycling since 1995. It’s mostly a reduction in youth cycling, keeping in mind that the first American states began mandating helmets for kids in the mid 1990s and that’s when most of the cycling discouragement happened.

    Again tabulated at cycle-helmets.com, US Census Bureau data shows 22,948,000 Americans aged 7-17 cycling in 1995, and by 2009 this was down to 13,196,000 – a reduction of 9,752,000.

    In 2009 there were more Americans aged 45+ cycling than in 1995. The Census Bureau figures show that in the 18-44yo age bracket, cycling participation was down from 23.262,000 in 1995 to 15,348,000 in 2009 – a reduction of 7,914,000.

    9,752,000 + 7,914,000 = 17,666,000, which isn’t far off the NSGA/OIA estimate of 17,960,000 fewer Americans cycling. So the three separate public and private surveys are pretty much in agreement that US cycling participation has collapsed over the past 20 years.

    The 7,914,000 reduction in (voluntary helmet) 18-44yo participation is probably because a 17 year old discouraged from cycling in 1995 was 31 years old in 2009 (and 37 by 2015) … people who don’t cycle or are discouraged from cycling when young are less likely to get into cycling when they’re adults. The same generational slide is evident in Australia’s similarly disastrous cycling participation trends.

    The US total population increased 20.2% from 1995 to 2015. If you expect US cyclist injuries have fallen in line with the huge drop in participation and widespread use of helmets, you’ll be disappointed – particularly when you see the concussion figures (visit the cycle-helmets.com US page).

    The French Government is making helmets mandatory for children aged 12 and under as of March 2017. The French don’t have a reputation for being particularly chubby but watch what happens in the next 10 to 20 years with French obesity rates.

  • Dan says:

    Helmets should be optional not legislated. Poignantly a PARENTING issue not a NANNY STATE imposition. I understand that people get hurt, but are cycling accidents truly that by & large & head injuries so dominant with in that group that we should all be obliged to wear one or be fined? It’s fine gouging by state, another trough filler if there weren’t already enough. I’m one of the many whom could do with a ride on a bike… fat, depressed & generally without will for outings partly due being legislated through the nose the moment I step out my doorway. I’ve thought many times I’d like to go for a ride on my bike, but in moving house I lost my helmet… not one to make a trip out just to buy a helmet I have left my bike stand in the shed, hid & un-rid. When I was younger I rode to school on my bike sometimes, rode about with my friends, never had to wear helmets, not one of my friends hurt themselves so bad that they needed more than a band-aid. Sick of all this over regulation. This should be left to parents to police if they so wish.

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