Why You’re More Likely Than Ever to Get in a Bike Crash

Mj 618_348_bike collisions on the rise
Nikola Miljkovic / Getty Images

The good news? More people are commuting to work by bike. The bad? More people are crashing on their bikes, too.

Collisions increased by some 7.8 percent over 10 years, according to a study of 563 cyclists (87 percent of whom were male) who visited emergency rooms after a bike crash. More than a third (37 percent) of those collisions involved intoxicated cyclists. 

It might seem obvious that drunk riders crash more often, but the results weren't that straightforward. Alcohol didn't appear to have an effect on the severity of the cyclists' injuries, says study lead author and associate professor of surgery at Cedars-Sinai Dr. Eric Ley. In fact, riders who were intoxicated were less likely to be involved with a motor vehicle crash and more likely to solo crash because of altered skills or judgment, he says. "The intoxicated bicyclists do not have super powers that allow them to avoid motor vehicles," Dr. Ley says. "Rather, they are crashing solo more frequently and this is paradoxically decreasing the rate, but not the number, of those who are colliding with cars."

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The primary reason for the increase of crashes is simpler: There are just more riders out there. Still, some riders are more susceptible than others to crashes. Here, gleaned form the survey, are ways to limit your chances of crashing:  

 These factors appeared to reduce the number of crashes:

  • Bicycling on dedicated bike lanes
  • Wearing a helmet
  • Wearing a light on the bike after dark
  • Helmet laws for riders younger than 18 years
  • Increasing the ridership in a city reduces both the rate and over time the number of crashes. Traffic patterns, when followed for ten to fifteen years, tend to change to better share the road with bicyclists.
  • Bicycling in groups
  • Maintenance of roads and paths to reduce potholes and debris

And these did not:

  • Age of rider
  • Experience
  • Reflective clothing
  • Use of a bicycle mirror
  • Bicycle helmet laws for riders older than 18 years

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