More than twice as many people were hospitalized due to bicycling injuries in 2013 than in 1998, according to a report in the journal of the American Medical Association. The report showed an increase in the proportion of head and torso injuries, as well as a marked increase in injuries suffered by riders 45 years of age and older. In fact, the proportion of injuries suffered by riders over 45 increased 81 percent in that time period. In addition, the rate of hospital admissions for bike accidents rose more than the increase in total injuries. Older riders are suffering more injuries in bicycle accidents and are more likely to be hospitalized as a result.
Cycling saw its popularity surge with the career of racing cyclist Lance Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong won the Tour de France every year from 1999 to 2005. While he was later stripped of those titles after a doping investigation, his impact on ridership in America remained.
More riders naturally meant more injuries and deaths from biking accidents. The inexperience of new riders likely contributed to the rise, as well as the shifting demographics of cyclists. But a major problem is the attitude this society has regarding the road. While automobile drivers may be aware that bicyclists have the same legal right to use the road as drivers, their behavior does not consistently reflect that knowledge. Bike riders don’t need to spend much time on the road to encounter careless, negligent, aggressive and abusive drivers. Many cities are designed with only motor vehicle traffic in mind. Cyclists are forced to work around decades of neglect and poor planning that have pushed their safety to the margins.
The rise in bicycling could be a fad. It could again begin to dwindle to previous levels. That fact remains that cycling has many advantages and is something that should be encouraged, rather than discouraged, for the physical and environmental benefits it offers. Injury trends are an important piece of information. We should use them to improve safety for bikers of all ages.
Source: npr.org, “As More Adults Pedal, Their Biking Injuries And Deaths Spike, Too,” by Michaeleen Doucleff, 2 September 2015