A UCSF study published in this month's Journal of the American Medical Association found that bicycle accidents have increased in frequency over the past 15 years. The research, conducted from 1998 to 2013, showed that hospital admissions for bicycle-related accidents across the United States doubled within that period of time, with head and torso injuries most often in need of treatment.
Older riders, in particular, are at increased risk of suffering an accident. UCSF's study points out that for bicyclists over the age of 45, hospital admissions for injuries rose from 39% to 65%, while the overall proportion for injuries shot up an astounding 81%. Older bicycle enthusiasts are more vulnerable to getting hurt simply by virtue of decreasing physical resiliency and a correlating greater danger of injury in any walk of life. When you add speed (especially characteristic of sport cycling) and oncoming traffic to the mix, you're bound to raise the likelihood of disaster occurring.
Another major reason for the dramatic rise in bicycle injuries has been the strong and growing popularity of the sport for riders of nearly all ages. Bicycling is indeed a great way to stay active, get fit, and enjoy the outdoors with friends. In addition, it's lower-impact on the bones and joints than jogging - until a bad accident, that is. Alongside bicycling's widespread popularity, however, comes the increased risk of accidents and collisions as riders must contend with the challenges of auto traffic. With distracted driving becoming ever more of a problem among Americans, bicyclists can tragically suffer its consequences.
How can we prevent bicycle injuries in the future and drive those depressing statistics down? UCSF's specialists recommend a dual strategy: cities should focus on updating their infrastructure to make it more bicycle-friendly (and thus decrease traffic congestion), while cyclists themselves should be better-trained and educated on road awareness. With those two steps implemented, we could make significant progress in protecting riders' safety and keeping them out of harm's way.