Biking Accidents on the Rise: Who's to Blame?Posted on Nov 3rd 2009 11:00AM by Deborah Dunham
Filed Under: Fitness
The New York Times recently reported on a group of Denver doctors who tackled this question after noticing a surprising rise in biking injuries coming into their emergency room. When they looked at the history, they found the severity of these injuries had significantly increased during the last five years. Their theory? Downtown commuters.
With the rising cost of gas, more people are being encouraged to take to the streets on their bikes. It's not uncommon in many cities to see businessmen and women commuting to work on two wheels. As environmentally friendly and heart healthy as this seems, it leaves some wondering if biking is just an accident waiting to happen. Literally.
"If we keep promoting cycling without other actions to make it safer, we may face a perfect storm of injuries in the near future," associate professor of surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Dr. Jeffry Kashuk, told The New York Times.
On the surface, the answer seems simple enough. Stop encouraging people to bike because more riders lead to more accidents, right? Not so, according to other countries. Studies show that even as the number of bikers rose in the Netherlands and Britain, cycling-related injuries and deaths fell. Even in the U.S., a California study showed that the most biker-friendly towns had fewer accidents. Pedestrians have to be aware of bike lanes, motorists need to be aware of sharing the road, and bikers need to also obey traffic rules.
"There is safety in numbers," says Meghan Cahill, director of communications for the League of American Bicyclists. "As more cyclists hit the road, vehicles become more aware of them and their right to be on the road. The solution lies in education, law enforcement and city planning," she says. "Not telling bikers to stay off the road."
Cahill's advice for first-timers: Take a class, ride with a group and build confidence over time. If you encounter a motorist who is reckless and endangers you, get off your bike, record the license plate and report them to the police. "To make it safer," Cahill adds, "more riders have to get out there."
Bike lanes are a great way to go -- just be sure to avoid the stupidest one in America.