An interesting study recently came out in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association. The study found more U.S. adults are getting hurt on bikes, especially middle-aged and older men. Urologist Benjamin Breyer, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco and his colleagues became curious about cycling injuries after seeing many men coming in for surgery for such injuries as urethral damage after bike accidents. They looked at data collected by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission from about 100 emergency rooms nationwide. Comparing 1998 and 1999 to 2012 and 2013, the last year of data available, they found:
• Bike injuries increased from 96 to 123 per 100,000 adults, a 28% increase. Most often injured: arms and legs. Increasingly injured: heads.
• Hospitalizations after bike injury increased from 5.1 to 11.2 per 100,000 U.S. adults, a 120% rise.
• The share of injuries occurring in people over age 45 increased from 23% to 42% and the share of hospitalizations involving the older group increased from 39% to 65%.
The increase in adult bike riding, for recreation and for commuting, likely explains many of the findings, Breyer said. The biggest increases in bike riding are among middle-aged men, he said. That older people are more prone to serious injury may explain the even bigger jump in hospitalizations, he said. He and his colleagues also cite reported increases in high-speed sport biking as a contributing factor.
Despite the increase in injury, Breyer advocates biking.
There’s no reason to think cycling is getting more dangerous on a per mile or per trip basis,., said. Pucher cites data from the U.S. Department of Transportation showing the number of bike trips in the U.S. increased from 3.3 million in 2001 to 4 million in 2009. Some communities embraced that rise in popularity by building more bike lanes and off-street paths and trails, he said.
“There are more people biking, so you would expect to see more injuries,” said John Pucher, a professor emeritus of urban planning at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, N.J, who lives and bikes in Raleigh, N.C.
High-speed sport bikers – often “middle-aged men….riding very fast on light-weight racing bikes,” alongside car traffic — do put themselves at increased risk, he said. More education of bikers and drivers is crucial, Pucher said.
How can bicycle-related injuries and deaths be prevented?
· Effective interventions to reduce injuries and fatalities to bicyclists include the following:
o Bicycle helmets: They reduce the risk of head and brain injuries in the event of a crash.
· Promising Interventions: Interventions that have shown promise for reducing injuries and fatalities to bicyclists include the following:
o Active lighting and rider visibility: Fluorescent clothing can make bicyclists visible from further away than regular clothing during the daytime. Retro-reflective clothing can make bicyclists more visible at night. Active lighting can include front white lights, rear red lights, or other lighting on the bicycle or bicyclist. This lighting may improve the visibility of bicyclists.