Dallas Helmet Law No Longer Enforced

One thing we forgot to note that we learned from today’s ride was that the helmet law in Dallas is no longer being enforced. We’d been told by a few others about this recently, but received official confirmation during the ride from uniformed officers who joined us in the Dallas Bikes to City Hall event. Apparently, the original law was put in place as an excuse to stop potential drug traffickers. According to the officer, someone challenged the constitutionality of the law, and the city decided to drop enforcement to avoid any potential lawsuits. You’ll notice from the video of our ride, we’re lead into City Hall by several officers, and a handful of the riders who joined are helmet-less.


I, for one, am opposed to helmet laws for adults. I feel it should be a choice, though I can understand for people who ride for sport. But for the casual rider, who averages 8 mph, I see it as a detraction to riding. There’s a reason why Copenhagen’s ridership is higher than 50%, and very few wear helmets, while accident rates are decimal point levels. They can increase the perception of risk which inevitably lowers ridership. Children are another story, although I’m even conflicted here, as most of us who are adults now rode for miles with all of our friends from the ages of 5 to 15 without helmets. Perhaps the reason ridership among children dropped from 40% in the 1970’s to under 10% now can be correlated to the trend in requiring head gear. Our parents simply never thought of it…now it’s the first thing we demand. In the end, physically separated bicycle infrastructure would ease my mind in allowing my children to ride without helmets, but as long as they have to travel on the roadways with cars, I can’t abide the risk.

Here’s a video of Dutch children commuting to school with physically separated paths, and without helmets:


  1. I received a ticket for not wearing a helmet. I thought it was a joke, the bursar thought it was a joke and heck the judge even told me it was stupid.
    In newspaper articles about bicycle wrecks they like to say…the bicyclist was hit at 70 mph per hour by a drunk driver. The bicyclist was not wearing a helmet and died at the scene.

  2. I was riding around a corner and didn’t realize the ground had a layer of wet mud…the bike slipped underneath me. I broke my arm and wrist in several places. My helmet cracked, but my head was o.k. I was only going about 8mph. Thank goodness for helmets! I will always be a supporter for any helmet law.
    I have also had a number of friends hit by motorists. Helmets should be enforced.

  3. Bob,

    I completely understand your advocacy of them, but considering the average person jogs at 10mph, that would mean they should also wear helmets. They would be just as apt to slip on mud as well.

    A fun site to check out is Copenhagen Cycle Chic, which shows pictures of everyday cyclists in Denmark: http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com/

    You’ll notice people from ages 8 to 80 showcased, and none are wearing helmets. It’s a society that has a major bicycling culture, and one that I think we could learn quite a bit from.

  4. I fail to see the comparison. We share the roads with vehicles. Safety should always be number 1 especially when we are asking for more bike friendly initiatives.

    We are not Copenhagen…we are not, today, bike friendly. Motorists really do not look out for cyclists and until we get to that point, I will be an advocate for helmets.

    Great ride to City Hall and Thanks to all those who participated and organized!

  5. […] panel discussion? The top 10 facts about cycling. Dallas police will no longer enforce the city’s mandatory helmet policy — the one that was put in place to stop drug traffickers (?!?). Portland police release their […]

  6. Regardless of how one feels about helmets, Dallas either ought to actively enforce the law or be honest and repeal it. There’re too many empty laws on the books.

    I understand people wanting to wear helmets. I understand less why they want to compel others to do likewise using the power of law. I understand least of all why anyone would want to pretend to have a law – but not really.

  7. @Bob (who may be a troll, but I’m not sure)
    “I fail to see the comparison. We share the roads with vehicles.”

    1. Cyclists (you) travel at 8mph — Joggers travel at 8mph or greater
    2. Cyclists share the road with traffic — Joggers share the road with traffic
    3. Cyclists can slip on mud — Joggers can slip on mud

    Therefore, if cyclists should wear helmets then joggers should also wear helmets.

    Get it now?

  8. why would anyone call me a troll? Just expressing my opinion and wish people could be more respectful. Thanks.

  9. I’ve gotten a ticket for riding without a helmet while riding a deserted downtown. This issue it very similar to the one of wearing seatbelts in cars. On the one hand you have the right to choice and on the other you have collective safety. It’s a debate that will never get resolved and comes down to whether you feel the government needs to tell people what to do or you think people are smart enough to do the right thing.

    Personally, I think its a little ridiculous to have an ALL ages helmet law. I wear a helmet 99% of the time and any time I am in a longer group ride. That said, if I want to run down the street to get lunch, I dont want to take a helmet.

    Finally, I find it really odd that you can opt to not wear a helmet on a Motorcycle (provided you pay a little extra).

  10. 8 MPH is awfully slow; unless I’m in a pokey residential area, I’m usually going 12 to 15 when at a leisurely pace…and 20+ in traffic.

    Not arguing for the helmet law here, not by any means since I’m against it. Just pointing out that 8 might be a bit too conservative of an estimate for the speed of a lot of riders.

  11. For me, 8mph is just right. In the bicycle capital of the world, average speed is 15 kph which equals 9.3 mph. like this:

    When we interviewed Roger Geller, Portland’s bike coordinator, he noted the following after Portland had built out it’s bicycle lane network: “One story I like to tell is that I’ve ridden the same street to work for years. Before it had bike lanes I wore lycra, rode my road bike, carried my
    work clothes in a back pack and rode like hell. Once we striped bike lanes on the street I took out my clunker, wore my work clothes, slowed way down (so I don’t work up a sweat) and feel very comfortable doing so because I
    then had my own dedicated space. It felt great.”

  12. I was ticketed for not wearing a helmet on my bike. While the ordinance states that the first offense is $10.00, I was fined $75.00!!! Mmmhmmm… I’m fighting it of course.
    I believe this ordinance targets unfairly one segment of the population. If cyclists are compelled to wear helmets, then so should motorcyclists (duh!), rollerbladers, skaters, horseback riders, etc.
    I understand about the relative danger of riding a bicycle without a helmet, but I definitely feel more threatened by a car driver on a cell phone than a bump on the road. Call me silly! If the City of Dallas cares soooo very much about the safety of its citizens, then perhaps a cell phone law would be a good place to start.
    Lastly, government substituting its judgment for my common sense is a dangerous slope. That it regulates danger to others is one thing, but danger to myself? Whatever happened to the land of the free?

  13. And if I may add… If a law is declared unconstitutional by the courts, then how can the City of Dallas still enforce it?

  14. Dallas has a hard time enforcing a lot of things. It even hires a bunch of felons as police officers. This comes out in the news once in a while, like when a police chief’s son shoots someone in a rival gang, or when cops are caught planting drugs.

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