Safe Cycling

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, PhD

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), each year more than 700 people are killed and over 500,000 are treated in emergency rooms as a result of bicycling injuries in the U.S. Children between the ages of 5 and 14 are particularly prone to bicycle-related injuries and account for the majority of those treated for cycling injuries in hospital emergency rooms.

While the most common injuries from bicycle accidents involve the arms or legs, head injuries account for over 60% of the deaths. Helmets are an effective safety measure. They reduce the incidence of brain injury from bicycle crashes, but most riders do not wear helmets or use them intermittently or incorrectly. No more than 25% of all children use helmets appropriately when bicycling, and helmet use declines with age.

Statistics provide a compelling argument for bike helmets. Brain injuries are reduced by as much as 88% and head injuries by 85% through proper helmet use. Riders without a helmet are 14 times more likely to die in a bicycle crash than those wearing helmets. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of bicycle helmet legislation, and numerous local governments have established helmet laws as well.

Behavior is another major contributor to bike injuries. Boys under 14 are more likely to be killed or injured than girls, and most fatal crashes are in some way associated with the bicyclist's behavior. Disobeying stop signs, swerving into traffic, and riding against traffic flow are some of the behaviors that have been connected to cycling fatalities.