Do I need to wear a bicycle helmet in California?

The short answer is that minors (under 18 years of age) must wear a bicycle helmet in California, but adults (18 years and older) are not required to wear a bicycle helmet at any time. Even though adults are not required to wear bicycle helmets in California, it is always a good idea to wear a bicycle helmet to protect against certain risks of injury (e.g., falling off your bicycle).

The bicycle helmet law is set forth in California Vehicle Code section 21212 and applies not only to minors operating bicycles but also to minors operating skateboards and non-motorized scooters, as well as minors wearing in-line skates or roller skates. Minors also must wear a helmet when riding as a passenger on a bicycle, skateboard or a non-motorized scooter.

Where are minors required to wear a helmet?

California Vehicle Code section 21212 applies where a minor is wearing in-line skates or roller skates or operating or riding as a passenger or any bicycle, skateboard, or nonmotorized scooter, “upon a street, bikeway, …, or any other public bicycle path or trail.” Under California law, the definition of a “street” or “trail” or “bicycle path” or “bikeway” can be quite expansive. Therefore, if you are a minor and you are unsure whether you are in an area where a helmet is required, you should wear a helmet in order to avoid potentially violating California’s bicycle helmet law set forth in California Vehicle Code section 21212.

What type of bicycle helmet is required?

California Vehicle Code section 21212 requires that minors wear a helmet that meets the “ASTM” standard. The acronym ASTM stands for American Society for Testing and Materials. The bicycle helmet law also requires that if a person sells a bicycle helmet in California it must meet the ASTM standard. The law also requires that the ASTM label be conspicuously placed so that consumers will understand that the helmet being sold to them meets the required standard.

What is the penalty for violating Vehicle Code section 21212?

A minor who violates Vehicle Code section 21212 is guilty of an infraction that is punishable by a fine of not more than twenty-five dollars ($25). However, with mandatory fees and assessments added on, the total fine usually ends up being around 4 or 5 times the amount of the base fine.

Will it harm my personal injury case if I was not wearing a helmet when I was injured?

Civil defense attorneys can always argue that you should have been wearing a helmet and that had you worn a helmet you would have sustained less injuries. Your civil personal injury attorney will need to examine the facts of your specific case and analyze the relevance of a helmet, whether you were required to wear a helmet, whether the helmet was intended to protect against the type of injury you sustained in the accident, and whether a helmet would have made a difference with regard to the nature and extent of your injuries (among other things). Importantly, ASTM bicycle helmets are not intended to protect against collisions with motor vehicles, nor are they intended to protect against concussions. Thus, it may be more difficult for a civil defense attorney to argue that wearing a helmet would have made any difference in your case when you were hit by a motor vehicle at 35 miles per hour, because ASTM helmets are not intended to protect against that type of accident/injury.

Contact Us If You Have Any Questions

If you were injured in a bicycle accident or hit by a car while riding your bike, you should contact the team at Rogers | Beltran LLP to discuss your potential personal injury case. We offer a free 30-minute telephone or Zoom consultation with a licensed California attorney who will be more than happy to discuss the details of your personal case and whether and how we may be able to help you.


Thank you for visiting our website. Please note that this article is not intended to be legal advice. Rogers | Beltran LLP does not represent you until you have a signed retainer with the firm. The views expressed herein are for educational purposes only. The law constantly changes, and we make no representations or guarantees about the current or past validity of the legal analysis. If you have questions about the current state of the law in this area, feel free to reach out to our law firm for a free telephone or remote consultation (Zoom) or seek legal counsel from another reputable law firm.