The purpose of this cross-sectional, descriptive study was to assess the rates of helmet and to examine variables related to bicycle helmet use in a sample of 8-16 year old Turkish children. Data were collected from a purposive sample of 1180 students who self-identified as cyclists and 1128 parents or guardians in two state primary schools in two urban municipalities in the northern part of Istanbul, Turkey. Results showed that self-reported helmet use was found prevalent in 4.4% of the children. The most cited reasons for not wearing a helmet were: 'don't own one', 'helmets are uncool', and 'uncomfortable'. Significant differences between helmet users and non-users correlated to gender, age, owning a bicycle helmet, wearing a friend's bicycle helmet and parents or guardian's bicycle helmet use while riding. Only three variables - helmet ownership (OR = 10.028, 95% CI 5.08, 19.79), parents' helmet use (OR = 2.62, 95% CI 1.22, 5.66) and friends' helmet use (OR = 0.16, 95% CI 0.07, 0.37) emerged as significant predictors of the likelihood of helmet use. The relatively low helmet use prevalence points to an urgent need for a multipronged campaign, including strategies such as raising awareness, educating primarly parents and friends, and distributing bicycle helmets for free or at a reduced cost.