In many shows, mostly those made for kids, any scene showing the characters biking, "scootering", skating, or doing anything similar, one thing that won't be left at home is a bicycle helmet. The only time a character will go sans helmet is in a Very Special Episode about wearing your bicycle helmet, and/or show where the characters Can't Get Away with Nuthin' , where said character will either A. Get caught by the parents, or B. get into an accident that results in an injury that could have been prevented if they had worn said helmet.
Knee and elbow pads can also appear in this trope, although not as frequently. When the character is traveling by car instead of by bicycle, prominent display of a properly-buckled seat belt (or neglecting to buckle up in a Very Special Episode situation) serves the same function.
This trope can also contribute to a good amount of Fridge Logic in situations in which time is a priority, or during quick transitions of little time, yet the characters find time to strap on safety gear.
While there is nothing wrong with wearing a helmet, generally in Real Life, many people bike around without helmets, and don't usually find themselves getting in accidents caused by the wrath of helmet gods for not wearing any gear. Ditto for skating and other activities. Helmet laws do exist however, not necessarily for bikes, but much more often for motorcycles.
However, Moral Guardians wouldn't want their kids thinking "if their favorite TV character doesn't wear a helmet, then why should they", thus, no head goes without a helmet to set a good example.
It should also be noted, at least according to this site, that nobody really wore helmets as much as they do now until The Nineties. Ironically, accidents went up, because people believed if you wore a helmet, you were guaranteed safe from any accident. Face it, while a helmet does have some protective value, it's not going to make you invincible.
Contrary to what one might think, this is not the inverse of Helmets Are Hardly Heroic, about the tendency of heroes in the fantasy and sci-fi genres not to wear helmets in battle.
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Anime & Manga
In Cardcaptor Sakura, when she goes rollerblading to school, Sakura wears all the protective gear, including the helmet. The one exception to this rule was when she was trying to catch the Fly card or in a few other card-catching cases, but that first one was in the middle of the night and she was still wearing her pajamas.
One instance in Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds. Yusei has a spare helmet for a second rider even though there's no place to store it, and the bike wasn't designed to hold two people. While there could've been a compartment under the seat like in a lot of bikes, the double-seater has no excuse.
Films — Live Action
In Thunderball, James Bond would don a helmet before going to fly around in the Bell Rocket Belt. The filmmakers objected to the helmet, but the stunt man refused to fly the rocket without it.
Power Rangers has it easy, as helmets are part of Rangers' suits.
However, there's one instance in Dino Thunder of a helmet appearing out of nowhere between shots, when Tommy has to drive a barely-conscious Elsa out of the area on an ATV. Earlier, Tommy also makes a point of fastening his seat belt before driving off even though the freaking Tyrannosaur chasing him seemed to be the greater safety hazard. Though, as the page quote shows, he does chide himself for it immediately afterwards.
Ziggy also has a strange moment where he stops to put on a helmet before driving off in a go-kart in order to get away from the deranged Attack Bot Tenaya 7. Slightly justified in that Tenaya is the type of character who deliberately prolongs her hunts to increase her enjoyment.
In the episode where the team encounters former Carranger leader Kyosuke Jinnai, the Gokaiger attack the Monster of the Week while riding vehicles like scooters and bicycles. Kyosuke admonishes Red and Green for riding double on a single bicycle, which is perfectly in character since he's been shown to be a traffic safety nut throughout the episode.
Also, the series follows this in general whenever Rangers are skateboarding, rollerblading, bike riding,etc. They will wear helmets and knee pads. Most notable in The Movie
Both Ice Road Truckers and, on occasion, Dirty Jobs subvert this by pointing out that while driving on iced-over bodies of water, you do not wear your seat belt since falling through the ice is a far likelier hazard than crashing, and undoing a seat belt wastes valuable seconds.
Angel doesn't need to wear a helmet for protection, but, as Wesley points out, it's the law in California. He just wishes it weren't bright pink.
Angel: It's just, y'know, the whole visibility issue, not to mention the whole hat-head thing, I mean when you, when you really think about how come I have to wear the lady's helmet? Wesley: Stop being such a wanker and put it on... looks good. Hop on board, gorgeous. Angel: You'll pay for this.
An episode of Blood Ties had a bizarre example, where a child is shown sneaking out of the house to ride his bike. Just because you are the evil spawn of a dark elf, sneaking out of the house to murder one of the neighborhood children, that's no reason to ignore bicycle safety.
Pee-Wee's Playhouse: Pee-Wee Herman started out not wearing a helmet on his scooter, but by Series 2 he got one. Appropriately, it was decked out with a cyclops eye and other impractical doodads.
Made almost entirely pointless for the DLC episodes. Due to revamping bike handling to make gameplay easier for TLAD (an episode that focused heavily on motorcycle riding) it's absolutely impossible to fall off the bike, leading to situations where you can end up stuck upside-down, still on your bike — with getting off the bike the only way to correct it.
In Bully, you don't have to wear a helmet when you ride a regular bicycle, however, your trouble meter goes up if you go on a motorbike without helmets. Shown Their Work indeed.
In Nancy Drew: Danger at Deception Point, if you don't put your helmet on, Nancy has an accident and ends up in the hospital as a Game Over.
In the Strawberry Shortcake episode "Back in the Saddle", all the girls are shown wearing helmets under their cowboy hats while riding horses.
Arthur brings the Fridge Logic on this, since the major characters have ears that stick through the air vents, making one wonder if they would be torn in a nasty crash.
Also there was one episode where Arthur and Buster are given crap by two skater kids for wearing safety straps.
Rocket Power, due to Executive Meddling. Nickelodeon would not pick up the show unless the kids were wearing appropriate safety gear during all of their extreme sports activities. Justified in that they are required in almost all formally-sanctioned competitive events.
Rugrats, despite having the older kids with big wheels and tricycles never had helmets and the only time anything like that is used in the series was because Didi went into My Beloved Smother mode after Tommy whapped his head on a table.
Johnny Test: A typical preteen boy and his dog, and nary a helmet in sight. Unless his sisters are involved.
Stanley had an episode that dealt with armadillos and wearing your bicycle helmet when he questioned its necessity.
In Phineas and Ferb, either they're lampshading the hell out of it, or they're really into helmets. There will be helmets under cowboy hats, turtles as helmets, the list goes on.
In "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted", they weren't wearing any. And then it was revealed that they had created head-shaped helmets, complete with hair. These helmets showed up again in later episodes.
And lets not forget Candace and the pool turned skate-park in "De Plane! De Plane!"...
Kid 1: Safety first! (throws a helmet on Candace)
Kid 2: Safety first! (throws knee and elbow pads on her)
Kid 3: Safety first! (hands her a steering wheel)
Candace: Steering wheel? How is this safe? (crashes and airbag deploys from the steering wheel)
Then Candace and Jeremy end up getting hurt anyway when Phineas and Ferb's passing airplane blots out the sun and causes Candace to crash into Jeremy.
Definitely lampshaded in "Tour de Ferb", when Candace drags Linda out of the shower to see Phineas and Ferb's latest project, and Linda quips "Lucky thing I picked today to wear my bike helmet in the shower."
In "Sweat Ride", Linda is riding skates and Jeremy somehow instantly notices that her hair is actually a hair-shaped helmet.
Kim Possible: Any of her gadgets will strap on the necessary safety gear. When she pulls the cord to fire up a backpack-jetpack, a robot arm pops a helmet on her head.
Also played straight in the odd episode where it's not one of her gadgets but a borrowed jetski or something, she always puts on life-preservers and similar gear.
Plot point in Darkwing Duck: in 'Darkly Dawns the Duck', Darkwing always wears his Nice Hat on his motorcycle. Gosalyn finds a discarded helmet, and lectures him on bike safety; he then normally wears the helmet when riding. 'Dead Duck' features Darkwing skipping the helmet, as it had been destroyed (by a falling anvil). Guess what happens based on the episode title.
American Dragon Jake Long: Supposedly, this was considered for the title character, but ultimately rejected, presumably because an impressionable youth is much more likely to bike without a helmet than turn into a dragon and fly, helmet or no.
In X-Men, even Wolverine wears a helmet when riding a motorcycle. Presumably the in-universe issue is less safety than not getting a citation.
Same with X-Men: Evolution. This makes sense with Wolverine, as he's trying to blend in. But it's weird to see Sabretooth, of all people, wearing a helmet, as he makes no attempt to blend it, and can presumably... deal with any cop unlucky enough to pull him over.
Averted much of the time. Part of the complex excuse to use stock footageroute the kids use to get to the factory and save the day involves riding skateboards (or in Jérémie and Aelita's case, a scooter) through an Absurdly-Spacious Sewer, yet none of them keep any safety gear down there. You'd think at least safety-conscious Jérémie would stash a helmet with his scooter.
However, during a skateboard competition organized by the school, all the kids are wearing helmets and protective gears. Which is a good thing, because they tend to fall a lot... or even crash into each other.
In the premiere of Batman Beyond, Terry starts fighting with a motorcycle gang of Jokerz and grabs a spare bike (one of theirs?) to lead them away. As he takes off, there's a quick scene showing him reach back for a helmet conveniently sitting on the seat — you'd think that putting it on would interfere with his driving.
In a variant of the rule, British childrens cartoon Peppa Pig is to be seen in the future wearing safety belts while riding in a car, as well as helmets when riding bikes. And the creators of the show are also taking retroactive remedy in that all older episodes are to be edited to feature them wearing safety belts and helmets as well.
One episode even shows Dora and Boots buckling their seatbelts on a merry-go-round Most kids don't realize that they can fall off the merry-go-round if they stand up while it's going.
Kick Buttowski always wears his helmet when performing stunts... because he never takes it off to begin with. (Never know when a stunt opportunity will present itself.)
Franklin, and like on Arthur, there's at least one character whose ears stick straight up through their helmet. There's no story about someone getting in trouble because they don't think helmets are cool. There is, however, one entirely focused around Franklin getting a fancy new helmet with a flashing light on top because he's outgrown his old one and some of the other kids find the new helmet goofy. When he hears the kids making fun of that type of helmet, he hides it and tries to borrow his friend Bear's to use for a bike safety rally, only to be told that you should never wear a helmet that hasn't been specifically fitted for you. In the end, another friend helps him to see that it doesn't matter if the other kids think the helmet is dorky and the bike safety officer suggests that the flashing light could be a useful safety feature. He is seen wearing this helmet throughout the rest of the series. Fridge Logic; Franklin being a turtle, wouldn't his head be at more risk since the helmet would prevent him from fully retracting his head into his shell?
In My Friends Tigger & Pooh, the Super Sleuths (Pooh, Tigger and Darby) always wear their helmets when riding their Sleuther Scooters. ("Somebody's needing our help today, so helmets on and scooters away!")
In "The Magic Skateboard" on The Backyardigans, the Backyardigans (minus Tasha, who is not in the story) all wear helmets and padding. Uniqua's antennae stick up through her helmet, Austin's ears stick up through his and Tyrone's antlers through his. Additionally, his ears stick out to the sides.
Seen on Gofrette, and yes, once again, there are anthropomorphic characters with ears that stick through their helmets.
Both Will and Dewitt always wear their helmets when riding or biking on Will And Dewitt.
Though no bikes were involved, an episode of the Sam & Max: Freelance Police animated series features Sam using Max to batter down a door, and he does indeed put a helmet on Max (and the duo give a warning about how they're cartoon characters who have "being fictional" as their stunt qualifications). The Effigy Mound, a now-out-of-print Sam & Max sketchbook, actually has materials from the production of this, revealing that the original drafts were more like Steve Purcell's comics. For that scene in particular is a note insisting on the helmet, and complaining that "it still seems like something a child could imitate at home with a pet rabbit".
Lilo & Stitch: The Series: Stitch andGantu put on helmets before getting on bikes. Which they had stolen. In the middle of a chase scene. Makes even less sense for Stitch than it does for Gantu, considering the experiment is stated several times to be indestructible (though Gantu's sheer size would likely make him tougher than humans). In the movie he gets run over by an 18-wheeler.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series - Spider-Man and Black Cat are fleeing from SHIELD agents on flying motorbikes. When Spidey runs out of web-fluid, Black Cat steals a motorcycle, donning the helmet between shots. Spidey puts a second one on, noting that he's probably gonna need it.
Parodied in an episode of The Simpsons. Marge has become a police officer, and notices Bart is about to go skateboarding without wearing a helmet or pads. She tells him that he has to wear them, saying it's for his safety. Cut to Bart getting wailed on by a group of bullies, stating that the equipment's soft padding makes it easier for them to beat him.
Snake Eyes is nearly always wearing a helmet when he's riding his motorcycle in G.I. Joe: Renegades. In one instance, he's first seen driving a stolen Cobra ATV, wearing a helmet, before he hops off, tossing the helmet off as he does...and then putting on a different helmet three seconds later when he hops on his motorcycle.
Inspector Gadget had his famous Copter Hat, which at first simply came out of his hat. When he became Lieutenant Gadget, however, the Copter Hat transformation also included a helmet and visor.
In one episode of Sofia The First, Cedric magics up a seat belt for himself before taking off in a flying machine.
In Muzzy In Gondoland, Bob and Princess Sylvia take off on his motorbike to elope, and both are shown putting on helmets. This gets a little weird in Sylvia's case, as she's never seen without her crown - she has a helmet with a crown attached to it, which she somehow puts on without ever taking off her other crown.
Many bikers (especially sportbike riders) may compromise on other gear, but NEVER on a helmet. This is, of course, because a helmet protects a rather important part of your body.
Most horseback-riding barns have this as house rules to avoid lawsuits.
Part of the controversy is due to bad helmet design being found to be linked with increased head torsion injuries on impact. In short, you're less likely to split open your skull with a helmet, but more likely to break your neck.
Or, if the helmet is not properly set, to be strangled by the straps.
Of course, many bikers argue that if you can't properly shop for, fit, and adjust a helmet on your own maybe you shouldn't be on a motorcycle in the first place.
Sort of happens in Spain, where you can get fined by a cop for riding a bike without a helmet.
Enforced by law in Indonesia, where riding a motorcycle (the most common transportation method of Indonesia) on any city road without a helmet will get you fined at best and your licenses revoked at worst.
In some locations such as New Jersey, helmets are not even required for motorcycles.
However, in New Jersey, one must wear a helmet up to the age of 14 on a regular bike. After that, it's completely optional.
Real helmet enforcement apparently increased biking-related deaths in Australia; without helmet laws, people made up their own minds about whether or not to wear one if they commuted by bike, and thus bikers got good at not having accidents that got them thrown off the bike, and drivers got good at allowing for bikers on the road. When a law requiring them went into effect, the "I hate helmet hair" brigade found other ways to get around, reducing the overall number of bikers on the road, and causing drivers to get complacent about whether or not bikers were around. Compensatory mortality ensued.
Australia (and New Zealand) mandated bike helmets early, too, in The Eighties when nobody in North America or Europe except pro competition riders and the recently brain-injured were using them, leading to a sense of Schizo Tech from down-under media in this era.
Some ski resorts in Colorado, such as Breckenridge, Crested Butte and Vail, require students enrolled in ski school lessons to wear helmets.