Photos: Helmet Policy

Adventure Cycling Association members periodically contact us about our photo policy regarding cyclists who are photographed riding without a helmet or regarding how much we advocate that cyclists wear helmets. We receive communications, on the one hand, that we should use only photos of riders with helmets on, and that we should ardently advocate for all cyclists to wear helmets while riding. We are reminded of how helmet-wearing cyclists are much more likely to survive a crash without a serious or fatal head injury. We receive other communications that tell us not to be a “scold” in telling cyclists whether or not to wear helmets while riding. We are reminded that helmet-wearing by adult cyclists is not legally required in most places and that the rate of helmet wearing in a country does not necessarily correlate with safety data such as head injuries or fatalities.

We realize this is a heated debate so let us clarify what Adventure Cycling believes and does in this regard. Adventure Cycling believes in safe cycling, whereby cyclists ride safely and according to national, state and local laws, and where they respect other users of roads and trails. We strongly encourage cyclists to ride with appropriate and well-maintained equipment, including the use of a properly fitted CPSC-approved helmets.

Regarding helmets, Adventure Cycling requires that all of our tour participants use helmets and that our staff use helmets while on an event or ride related to work. We encourage members and readers to use helmets in many of our publications, such as Adventure Cyclist and Bike Bits. In our online guide for photographic submissions, we ask photographers to have cyclists in their photos wear helmets.

Although our bias is strongly toward helmet-clad cyclists, in photos and in practice, this does not mean that we entirely exclude photos of cyclists riding without helmets. On rare occasions, when a photo is so compelling that it conveys the beauty and freedom of bicycle travel -- in a qualitative way beyond what we see in our usual stream of photo submissions -- we will use that photo.

The rarity of these images is evidenced by a review of Adventure Cycling’s magazines, which demonstrates that nearly all riding cyclists are wearing helmets. In fact, in the last year, nearly all of the images in our principal magazines depicted riding cyclists wearing helmets. In other prominent publications, such as our guide to youth bike travel (Pedal Pioneers), our organizational brochure, and our tours catalogue, images and illustrations depict riding cyclists wearing helmets 100 percent of the time.

We recognize that there are diverse points of view on the use of helmets while riding a bicycle. We believe that, on balance, it is better and safer to wear helmets while riding, and will continue to emphasize that in our photo selection.