Does this equation ring true: more bicycle commuters = more bicycle injuries? According to a recent report from the American Medical Association journal (JAMA), the answer is yes. As gasoline prices and concerns over the environment have risen, more people nationwide have taken to riding bicycles to get to work and errands around town. It is good exercise and means fewer vehicles on the road, but apparently it also means more hospital admissions – according to the JAMA study, admissions due to bicycle-related injuries have more than doubled since 1998. The increase was the largest with bicyclists aged 45 and older. A study in another journal concluded that there was a similar rise in bicycle related deaths in that age group.
While some of these injuries and deaths could be attributed to an uptick in participants in bicycling as a sport (triggered by Lance Armstrong’s popularity), it is likely that the bicycle commuter increase is also responsible.
So what can be done to decrease these rising numbers? In addition to urging safety measures for riders, such as consistent helmet use and reflective gear, communities need to accept and accommodate the increase in bicyclists on the roadways. In Sacramento, this has already begun as we see “green lanes” in bicycle heavy commuter areas, and passage of the recent three-feet law. Other cities such as San Francisco and Portland, Oregon have responded as well.