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
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.