University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Bicycling Rates and the Prevalence of Bicycle Helmet Usage in the State of Wisconsin

Christian W. Schmidt, MS; Traci R. Snedden, PhD, RN; Kristen M. Malecki, PhD, MPH; Ronald E. Gangnon, PhD; Shoshannah I. Eggers, PhD; Marty S. Kanarek, PhD, MPH

WMJ. 2020;119(2):91-95.

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Introduction: Bicycles are a source of transportation, recreation, and exercise throughout the world. Bicycling is associated with both health and environmental benefits but also poses a risk of injury. The use of bicycle helmets has been shown to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with cycling. It is unknown if helmet use differs across Wisconsin geographic areas and sociodemographic groups.

Methods: Data were obtained from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW). Bicycle use and helmet use frequency were determined from a self-administered questionnaire that contained questions specific to preventative health behaviors. Descriptive statistics summarized overall bicycle ridership. Chi-square and Student t tests were performed to assess relationships between bicycle and helmet use across geographic categories and sociodemographic groups.

Results: Differences between sex, race or ethnicity, and education level were found to be associated with bicycle ridership and the frequency of helmet use. Men were significantly more likely to report riding a bicycle and never wearing a helmet. Individuals from urban communities reported always wearing a helmet more often than rural communities. Higher education levels were associated with higher levels of bicycle and helmet use. Race or ethnicity was not associated with bicycle ridership but was associated with differences in helmet use frequency.

Conclusion: Nearly half of those who ride bicycles in Wisconsin report never wearing a helmet. Since bicycle ridership and helmet use were found to be associated with a number of sociodemographic characteristics, any solution should consider the role of equity when attempting to increase ridership or helmet use.

Author Affiliations: Department of Population Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wis (Schmidt, Malecki, Gangnon, Eggers, Kanarek); School of Nursing, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wis (Snedden); Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY (Eggers).
Corresponding Author: Christian Schmidt, 610 Walnut St, 707 WARF Building, Madison, WI 53726; phone 651.829.1542; email
Acknowledgements: Funding for the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW) was provided by the Wisconsin Partnership Program PERC Award (233 AAG9971), the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (1UL1TR002373) and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (1 RC2 HL101468). The authors would also like to thank the University of Wisconsin Survey Center, SHOW administrative, field, and scientific staff, as well as all the SHOW participants for their contributions to this study.
Funding/Support: None declared.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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