Choosing a bike

Helmets & Children


photo: Dan Burden

Wearing a helmet isn’t just a good ideait’s the law for children under 18 years of age. If you are an adult taking care of a child, you have a legal responsibility to make sure your child wears a helmet. It is also advisable to wear a helmet yourself to set a good example.

Go to facts about preventing head injuries

Children may not realize the risk of head injury and its costs. That’s why it’s important that adults take steps to get helmets in the hands–and on the heads–of children.

In Sonoma County, all bicyclists under age 18 must wear an approved helmet. Failure to do so can result in a $25 fine!

Read the section of the law about helmets:

Safe biking starts with safe equipment. Below we provide basic tips on:

The seven tips advise what you should know about choosing a helmet and getting your child in the habit of wearing it:

Purchasing a Bicycle for Child



Take the child with you when shopping for a bike so that he or she can try it out.

Buy a bike that is the right size, not one a child has to “grow into.” Oversized bikes can cause the child to lose control and be injured.

How to test any style bike for proper fit:

  • When sitting on the seat with hands on the handlebar, the child must be able to place the balls of both feet on the ground.
  • When straddling the center bar, the child should be able to keep both feet flat on the ground with about a 1-inch clearance between the crotch and the bar.
  • When buying a bike with hand brakes for an older child, make sure that the child can grasp the levers and apply sufficient pressure to stop the bike.

More information from League of American Bicyclists

How to Select a Proper Helmet  



Know your child’s head
size. Take a tape measure with you when you go shopping for a helmet. Manufacturers print
head sizes on the boxes helmets are packaged in.


know what’s cool. If you allow your child to select the style, he or she will look
forward to wearing it.


buy a helmet that your child will “grow into.” If a helmet slips around, it is
not effective.


the pads provided to make a helmet fit snugly.


straps so that it doesn’t slide forward or backward.

Getting Your Child to Wear a


that wearing helmets is standard procedure. Wear a helmet yourself.


that helmets be worn at all times—even for short jaunts on a driveway and in remote
areas far from traffic.


on Fitting a Helmet


Helmets are not hats! They must be level on your head and strapped
on securely to be protective in a crash.

You want
the helmet to be level on the head, not tilted back or sideways.

You want
the fitting pads inside to be touching all the way around.

You want
the strap to be comfortably snug.

With the
strap fastened you should not be able to get the helmet off with any combination of
twisting and tugging

The helmet
should not bump on your glasses or sunglasses in the front.

The helmet
should be comfortable enough to forget that it is on your head after only a few minutes.

It will
take you more fiddling time than you expect to get it this way.

For more information, go to: Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

Excerpted from California Vehicle Code,
January 2, 2003.

21212. (a) A person under 18 years of age shall not operate a bicycle, a nonmotorized scooter, or a skateboard, nor shall they wear in-line or roller skates, nor ride upon a bicycle, a nonmotorized scooter, or a skateboard as a passenger, upon a street, bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public bicycle path or trail unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet that meets the standards of either the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), or standards subsequently established by those entities. This requirement also applies to a person who rides upon a bicycle while in a restraining seat that is attached to the bicycle or in a trailer towed by the bicycle.

(b) Any helmet sold or offered for sale for use by operators and passengers of bicycles, nonmotorized scooters, skateboards, or in-line or roller skates shall be conspicuously labeled in accordance with the standard described in subdivision (a) which shall constitute the manufacturer’s certification that the helmet conforms to the applicable safety standards.

(c) No person shall sell, or offer for sale, for use by an operator or passenger of a bicycle, nonmotorized scooter, skateboard, or in-line or roller skates any safety helmet which is not of a type meeting requirements established by this section.

(d) Any charge under this subdivision shall be dismissed when the person charged alleges in court, under oath, that the charge against the person is the first charge against that person under this subdivision, unless it is otherwise established in court that the charge is not the first charge against the person.

(e) Except as provided in subdivision (d), a violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than twenty-five dollars ($25). The parent or legal guardian having control or custody of an unemancipated minor whose conduct violates this section shall be jointly and severally liable with the minor for the amount of the fine imposed pursuant to this subdivision.

(f) Notwithstanding Section 1463 of the Penal Code or any other provision of law, the fines collected for a violation of this section shall be allocated as follows:

(1) Seventy-two and one-half percent of the amount collected shall be deposited in a special account of the county health department, to be used for bicycle, nonmotorized scooter, skateboard, and in-line and roller skate safety education and for assisting low-income families in obtaining approved bicycle helmets for children under the age of 18 years, either on a loan or purchase basis. The county may contract for the implementation of this program, which, to the extent practicable, shall be operated in conjunction with the child passenger restraint program pursuant to Section 27360.

(2) Two and one-half percent of the amount collected shall be deposited in the county treasury to be used by the county to administer the program described in paragraph (1).

(3) If the violation occurred within a city, 25 percent of the amount collected shall be transferred to and deposited in the treasury of that city. If the violation occurred in an unincorporated area, this 25 percent shall be deposited and used pursuant to paragraph (1).