bicycle-commutersAs a New York and Pennsylvania bicycle accident lawyer, I was very interested in a recent article that discussed a disturbing trend– a significant increase in both the number of bicycle accidents and the severity of the injuries suffered in bike accidents.

The New York Times recently reported on alarming research results about the safety of American cyclists. Trauma doctors at the Rocky Mountain Regional Trauma Center in Denver, Colo., were struck by the number of bicycle accident victims they were treating – and the severity of the injuries. The doctors decided to track and analyze the injuries to see if they were noticing a real statistical change.

The doctors were not imagining anything. The Trauma Center was receiving more bicyclists hurt in road accidents. What’s more, the bicyclists’ injuries were more severe.

The study took all of the data on bicycling-related trauma admittances at the hospital and split them in two time periods: 1995-2000 and the other 2001-6. Some of the disturbing trends they discovered:

  • Applying a standard injury score, the severity of bodily damage to bicyclists had increased dramatically.
  • Chest injuries rose by 15%. Abdominal injuries tripled.
  • The average time spend in the ER for an injured bicyclist increased.

What is causing more injuries to bicyclists?

The Colorado study also came up with the following findings – important clues to the possible cause for the increased risks for bicyclists:

  • The average age of injured riders rose from 25 to about 30.
  • Looking at the sites where injuries happened, the researchers found that they massed not on bike paths – but downtown.

“What we concluded was that a lot of these people were commuters,” said Dr. Jeffry Kashuk, an attending physician at the trauma center and an author of the study. “If we keep promoting cycling without other actions to make it safer, we may face a perfect storm of injuries in the near future.” He was quoted in “Phys Ed: Do More Bicyclists Lead to More Injuries?” (10/27, Reynolds) in the New York Times.

Safety in numbers? Only over a certain level

The study points to a complicated conclusion. We are going through a period of rising risk as more bicyclists commute – but if enough bicyclists are on the road, driver behavior starts to change. International research points to increased safety for bicyclists on the roads of countries such as England and the Netherlands, where bicycling commuters are commonplace. As a British study put it: “Common events are safe, and rare events are dangerous.”

So what can we do during this – hopefully – transitional stage as employees take to bicycling to work? The two greatest safety factors for bicycle safety cited by researchers are:

  1. Vigilance/awareness of vehicles and road conditions
  2. Strictly follow all road rules. No weaving through traffic or running lights.

Those important strategies are going to stand us in good stead as our road culture changes – and bicycles become more and more the rule, not the exception, on our streets.

Thanks for reading and RIDE SAFELY,

James B. Reed, Esq.
NY & PA Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14901
Tel: (607) 733-8866
Fax: (607) 732-6062
Toll Free: 1-800-943-3529

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