What Is Oregon’s Bicycle Helmet Law?

There are many bicycle riders in Oregon. Whether riding for recreational purposes or using a bicycle as a main method of transportation, it is important that citizens of the state understand the laws regarding bicycling. Many people ask whether or not a bicycle helmet is mandatory in Oregon. Here, we want to outline bicycle helmet laws and discuss some of the safety issues relevant to bicycle operation.

What Is Oregon's Bicycle Helmet Law?

Are helmets mandatory in Oregon?

Bicycle helmet laws in Oregon revolve around the age of the bicycle rider (per ORS 814.485 – Failure to wear protective headgear). Any bicycle operator under the age of 16 must wear a helmet if they are riding on a public street or any premises opened to the public (such as a parking lot or alleyway). For a premises to be considered “open to the public,” it must be accessible and open for the general public to ride their vehicles. Helmets are required for any operators or passengers on a bicycle that are under 16 years old (ORS 814.486 – Endangering bicycle operator or passenger).

That is the extent of Oregon’s bicycle helmet laws. Any bicycle rider that is 16 years of age or older is not required to wear a helmet. Further, riders of any age are not required to wear a helmet if they are not on a public street or other premises where the general public is allowed to operate their vehicles.

What are the penalties for violating Oregon’s helmet law?

Under ORS 814.485, there is a $25 fine for a bicycle operator who fails to follow Oregon’s bicycle helmet law. Under the law, this fine can be shifted to a child’s parents or guardians.

  • If a child is 11 years of age or younger, helmet violation charges will go against the parent or guardian responsible for the safety and welfare of the child.
  • If a child is between the age of 12 and 16, helmet violation charges may be issued to the adult, but may also be issued to the child.

First-time helmet law violators will not be required to pay the fine if they prove that they have subsequently provided the underage bicycle operator with the appropriate protective headgear.

Why should bicyclists wear helmets?

Regardless of whether or not the helmet is required, all bicycle operators in Oregon should wear a helmet to prevent serious injuries from occurring. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), one-third of all non-fatal bicyclist injuries are head injuries. They say that the majority of the approximately 80,000 bicycle-related head injuries treated in hospitals each year are considered brain injuries.

During the latest reporting year in Oregon, the Department of Transportation says that there were 771 total bicycle accidents across the state. Out of these incidents, there were 761 injuries and 10 fatalities. Looking at this data, we can see that a high percentage of reported bicycle accidents result in harm to a rider.

Regardless of a rider’s age, a properly fitted bicycle helmet can help prevent serious injuries or death. Unfortunately, the NSC states that more than half of adults in this country report not wearing a helmet when they ride a bicycle. It is telling that nearly half of all bicyclists killed in crashes during a recent reporting year were not wearing a helmet at all. Speak with our Portland bike accident lawyers today at (503) 226-6361.