Do you need to wear a helmet in Spain?
This question could be better phrased: Is it required by law to wear a helmet in Spain?
Well, the short answer is: it depends.
There is a mandatory helmet law for cyclists in Spain, but it is seldom enforced. I’ll explain below.
Are you required by law to wear a helmet in Spain?
Yes. But there are four notable exceptions:
1. You don’t need to wear a helmet in Spain if you are in an urban area.
Since 2004, it has been mandatory to wear a helmet for all cyclists outside urban areas. It is not required in urban areas. In 2013, it was made mandatory for all cyclists, everywhere, to wear a helmet, even in urban areas. This was met by opposition from council bodies and the new law was quickly overturned. However, it is still necessary for under 16’s to wear a helmet at all times. The definition of “urban area” is quite loose and everything bigger than a couple of houses should qualify.
2. You don’t need to wear a helmet in Spain if it’s too hot.
What classifies as too hot? Probably anywhere in the south of Spain from May-September, or all of Spain from June-August. The exception applies because wearing a helmet in extreme heat is pretty uncomfortable, and would completely deter some from cycling at all.
3. You don’t need to wear a helmet in Spain if you are going up a hill.
Convenient as I usually find that if I’m not in an urban area, and it’s not that hot, I’m going up a hill.
4. You don’t need to wear a helmet in Spain if you are a professional.
Get paid for cycling a bicycle? Great, then you are probably already subject to hundreds of rules, one of which is that you must wear a helmet at all times!
The Guardia Civil have responsibility alone for enforcing this law. It is seldom enforced as they have better things to do.
I bought a helmet in Barcelona, where I became aware of the law, but I never actually wore it…it just dangled off the back of my bike until I lost it in the forest at Beneficio. In total I cycled about 3,000km around Spain without a helmet (my reasons I will not discuss here) and passed or was passed by over 50 police cars and was never stopped. Only once was I stopped in Galicia, whilst travelling through a road block. I’m sure the police had nothing exciting to do there. There were six police cars, and I had got through the first five, when the last guard stopped me. He stuck out his hand, that formidable policeman’s palm, to say stop. I high-fived him and kept cycling.
Here’s what happened:
I explained that I lost my helmet in the woods (albeit over 1,000km ago) and pointed to the woods. This is exactly what the cop said:
“That’s OK. When you want, buy a new.”
“When you want.” I’m sure he meant “when you can,” but I couldn’t question the law, could I? And, as I didn’t want to buy another helmet, I followed his advice.