The Difference Between Good Policy and Good Practice

Here’s a nice experiment on the effects of bike helmet laws on youth bike riding from the Freakonomics blog

Do Bike-Helmet Laws Discourage Bicycling? – Freakonomics Blog –

We had this discussion a bit ago: helmet laws appear to dampen youth bicycling, which we don’t want to do since we want to promote both clean transport and physical activity. So the policy has a side effect we don’t like.

But it’s a whole lot better for kids to wear helmets: injury and death rates are significantly lower when they do, even controlling for the induced decrease.

So what’s to do? I’m not sure legislating behavior is a great idea (the policy) but the practice should be fairly clear to parents: helmets are a good idea. And not just for biking: skateboarding and rollerblading, too.*

I’ve always wondered why, if the helmet is an expense problem, we couldn’t subsidize purchasing helmets through schools, though.

*I’m so risk averse, though, that I think wearing a helmet in the bathroom is a good idea and I would if I didn’t prevent shampoo use.