The recent return to bicycling—for health, recreation, and commuting—has helped myriad people get fitter and reduce the risk of developing some chronic diseases, but it has also contributed to a lot more injuries, says a recent study published in the journal Injury Prevention.
Researchers scoured through data from 1997 to 2013 pulled from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System related to all bicycle injuries to adults, and found that medical costs increased by 137% for non-fatal injuries and 23% for fatal injuries, with the total bill during the study period reaching $209 billion for non-fatal, and $28 billion for fatalities. There were 3.8 million non-fatal injuries during that time and almost 10,000 deaths, with men taking up about three-quarters of the total toll.
The study authors point to car traffic pattern changes, increased bike commuting, vehicle design changes, and bicyclists’ increased proximity to traffic as the reasons why the numbers keep rising, and say that since the health benefits of cycling offset the risks, we should focus more on how to build a safer infrastructure for bicycling.
“Many of these injuries are preventable with safer roads,” said Benjamin N. Breyer, M.D., an associate professor of urology at the University of California San Francisco. “We can learn lessons from the cycling environment in some European cities, where they have more riders and fewer accidents per rider. As our cities become more dense and we look for ways to promote active commuting to benefit health and environment, we need to invest long-term into our bicycling infrastructure.”
To get yourself back in biking shape for the summer, check out these ways to amp up your cycling workout. Remember to wear a helmet, stay aware of your surroundings, and ride defensively to limit your chance of becoming another stat.