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Transportation United States

Why Biking Injuries and Deaths Are Spiking In the US 696

HughPickens.com writes: NPR reports that more and more adults across the U.S. are strapping on helmets and hopping on bikes to get to work. Unfortunately, between 1998 and 2013, the rate of bicycle-related injuries among all adults increased by 28 percent, from 96 injuries per 100,000 people in 1998-1999, to 123 injuries per 100,000 people in 2012-2013. And while the death rate among child cyclists has plummeted in the past four decades, the mortality rate among cyclists ages 35 to 54 has tripled. Dr. Benjamin Breyer isn't sure what's driving the surge in accidents among Generation Xers and baby boomers, but one reason could be what's known as the Lance Armstrong effect. "After Lance Armstrong had all of his success at the Tour de France, a lot more people were riding, and there were a lot more older riders that took up the bicycle for sport."

The most recent National Household Travel Survey showed that the vast majority of the increase in bicycling between 1995 and 2009 came from Americans older than 25, with the biggest increases coming in the oldest groups. That has meant more men in their 50s and 60s on road bikes, riding at high speeds, Breyer says — a recipe for serious injuries. Though a rapidly growing share of older people would like to ride, American cities built during the last 60 years don't make it easy for most people to do so. At the end of the day, reducing cycling accidents may boil down to something simple: Making sure that bikers know the rules of the road — and that drivers know how to deal with bikers.
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Why Biking Injuries and Deaths Are Spiking In the US

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  • by michael_rendier ( 2601249 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:23PM (#50472305) Homepage
    Always ride like absolutely NO ONE can see you...like you are invisible. If you purposefully always avoid situations where you are in front of a driver that perhaps doesn't look both ways...
    • by bsolar ( 1176767 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:32PM (#50472347)
      Actually the typical advice given to bikers is to ride thinking that everyone around you is actively trying to kill you. It works because most people grossly underestimate how others can be *incompetent* but have much less difficulties in thinking about how others could be *malicious*. This is helpful in getting enough caution out of them.
      • by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:44PM (#50472417)

        Actually the typical advice given to bikers is to ride thinking that everyone around you is actively trying to kill you. It works because most people grossly underestimate how others can be *incompetent* but have much less difficulties in thinking about how others could be *malicious*. This is helpful in getting enough caution out of them.

        And helmets are only rated to protect against low impact forces. Most people think that helmets off much more protection than they actually do. Safe Cycling skills are much more important.

        http://bicyclesafe.com/helmets... [bicyclesafe.com]

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by amiga3D ( 567632 )

          I always thought the helmets were there to help the cops find your head when you get decapitated.

      • by NeoMorphy ( 576507 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @03:38PM (#50473259)

        Some drivers are malicious. One of my wife's students was rear ended after stopping for a stop sign. He went flying and broke his arm. The driver told him to get off the road and drove off. I stopped riding a bike in the 80s after multiple cars sideswiped me, once when I was on the sidewalk. It seemed like it was safer in the 70s and then in the early 80s drivers starting hitting cyclists like it was a sport.

        My wife and I are riding again, but only on the rail trails.

    • by Brama ( 80257 )

      Yup, act as if everyone is purposefully out there to kill you. Still no guarantees, but it will greatly improve your chances of not getting hit. As someone who bikes in NYC, I am amazed by the stunts many bikers pull off, such as passing cars/cabs that are standing still at high speed, drive through red lights at great speed without barely looking and scaring the shit out of peds, swerving narrowly through traffic leaving no room at all for corrections. Going in the wrong way, at night, with no light whatso

      • Like you said, they're just acting as if everyone is purposely trying to kill them. After all, the best way to handle someone that's trying to kill you is to kill them first, right?
        • by Brama ( 80257 )

          That doesn't really work out as they are generally on the losing end of the equation when it turns into an accident.

    • by ZeroPly ( 881915 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @02:06PM (#50472543)
      That is horrendously bad advice. If I were actually invisible, I would ride on the sidewalk. For riding on the road, you want to stay far enough towards the middle that you don't blend into the surroundings. And when you stop at intersections, you generally need to assert enough room that cars don't squeeze past you. Both those things would be impossible if you were invisible.
    • I just assume vehicles are going to run me down. I never trust any vehicle with a drive holding a cell phone. I've seen too many people pull right out in front of me with a cellphone and I'm stopped within 3 feet of the car watching them go in front of me obliviously.

      Never ride on PCH in California if you have any grey matter left.

      Bike trails are the only half way safe method of biking.

      Fast road bikes with skinny tires are simply asking for problems from fragile tires to higher speeds. I don't do that.


    • I hate to say it, but in this city, the majority of the bicyclists are apparently trying to win Darwin Awards.
      On an average day, you'll see at least a dozen of them, and about 6 times a year you'll see one that's actually following the rules.
      They go through red lights. Go the wrong direction in the lanes. Shoot out into traffic from behind large objects in the middle of the block. Jump back and forth between the sidewalk and the road with no warning. etc.
      In short, they are suicidal incompetents that should
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:23PM (#50472307)

    Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians all draw from the same general population and none of them has the moral high ground. But watch this thread devolve into endless, ignorant sniping among the groups. I have a car, ride a bike and walk to work and I see members of each group act incredibly stupidly and selfishly. It's just a fact of life that people are generally terrible and their actions frequently endanger and even kill one another, bu they'd rather withdraw into their little cultural groups to claim the high ground. And nothing ever changes.

  • by Murdoch5 ( 1563847 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:28PM (#50472317)
    I can't even count how many times a day a cyclist breaks a traffic law and almost ends up getting hit, in which case that would be entirely there fault! When cyclists start obeying the rules of the road, then we'll finally start seeing cyclist accidents fall.
    • by cruff ( 171569 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:32PM (#50472349) Homepage
      I see this all the time also. However to be fair, the other day I observed a Prius driver blow through a stop sign and dart across an intersection in front of a cyclist obeying all the rules. There are all kinds of idiots on the road. Drive defensively like they are all out to kill out.
      • by Murdoch5 ( 1563847 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:45PM (#50472431)
        You're absolutely right, except the number of cyclists who break the laws vs motorists is really unbalanced. I live in Toronto and the number of times a cyclist doesn't stop at a stop sign, traffic light, or will dart amongst traffic, really is getting ridiculous.
        • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday September 07, 2015 @02:12PM (#50472573) Homepage

          On the other hand, there really should be different rules of traffic for cyclists than for cars. I'm not saying there should be no rules, or that cyclists shouldn't follow the rules, but the rules should just be different. What a cyclist can see and hear is different from someone driving. The acceleration profile is different. The top speed is different, as is the amount of damage they can do. Riding a bicycle safely requires a different set of behaviors than driving safely.

          We don't expect pedestrians to follow the same laws as cars. Let's not pretend that cars and bikes aren't on different footing.

      • There was a study done one this, mostly pointing out that there was a lot of confirmation bias in play - that people who were incensed at bicyclists not obeying traffic laws generally did not noticed automobile drivers committing similar acts. (This is, of course, a general observation, I can't say jack about you in particular.)

        I think there are a lot of factors here - some are cultural, where people think of bicyclists and interlopers and inappropriate in their use of space, and bicyclists regard automobil

    • by SteveSgt ( 3465 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:36PM (#50472367)

      I did recently count, on my 10 mile pre-dawn bicycle commute to work, how many motorists I noticed violating traffic law:
      From the helmet-cam video I counted: 11 motorists driving pre-dawn without lights, 8 motorists failing to signal lane changes, 4 motorists failing to signal left turns, 4 motorists failed to come to a complete stop at stop signs, 3 motorists running red lights, I'm guessing at least 8 motorists significantly exceeding the posted speed limit, and two who exceeded the limit where electronic signs were showing them their speed.
      And that's just one Wednesday morning, on some of the least busy streets in my town.
      When are motorists going to start obeying the rules of the road?

      • by Murdoch5 ( 1563847 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:47PM (#50472437)
        How many cyclists don't signal lane changes? How many cyclists don't obey the crossing rules for the road? How many cyclists don't have acceptable lighting? I can do the same thing you're doing and at least in Toronto, cyclists break way more rules then motorists.
        • by pruss ( 246395 )

          I occasionally do see cyclists signaling turns. But I think I have never in my life seen anybody on a bike (other than myself :-) ) ever do the hand signal for stopping (and at least in our state it's required by law).

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          How often do you thing a cyclist changes lanes? Right hand turns are executed from the right shoulder where they usually ride and left turns are from a standstill if there is any traffic. Yeah I know "I saw this one biker go blah bi de blah blahh". The thing is, if a cyclist is careless they'll get run over. If a motorist is careless they'll run over the cyclist.

        • by jeti ( 105266 )
          I have yet to meet a motorist who stricly adheres to the speed limits. Or one who doesn't run a yellow light even though he could stop safely. Motorists seem to be very aware of the rules that bicyclists are breaking while they shrug off their own lawlessness as both normal and acceptable. At the same time, motorists kill thousands of people per year in the US alone and are most often at fault [theguardian.com] when a bicyclist gets hurt.
      • From the helmet-cam video I counted: 11 motorists driving pre-dawn without lights, 8 motorists failing to signal lane changes

        What state are you in? Here, there's definitely no requirement to signal when just changing lanes going in the same direction. It's a damn good idea, and I still do it religiously, but it's not actually "violating traffic law".

        http://blog.sfgate.com/crime/2... [sfgate.com]

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        I'm fully convinced most motorists don't know about blinkers or if they do they think it means "I'm coming over to your lane now get the fuck out of my way." As for headlights I recently drove in a blinding rain where I could barely see 25 feet in front of my car. I was amazed at how many shapes in the grey wall appeared suddenly and were cars flashing by. The grey and silver cars are particularly hard to spot. It's gotten to the point now I don't drive in the rain at all if I can help it since about 15

    • by WalrusSlayer ( 883300 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:48PM (#50472443)
      Ummm, excuse me, but I fucking do obey the law. I stop for stop signs and stop lights. I yield to higher-speed vehicles when safe to do so. I signal turns. Even though I shouldn't have to, I light myself up like a christmas tree with bright flashing lights and reflective material so that you cannot help but notice me (a motorist should be watching for bicyclists just like they watch for cars, but the reality is that they don't, so I give them a helping hand). Occasionally I may "take a lane", which confuses and sometimes pisses off motorists who think I should always be safely 50 fifty beyond the curb. Sorry, I'm a vehicle with all the rights and responsibilities of any other vehicle. Look up your state traffic code to find this out. It is far safer for me to merge into slow-moving traffic (and therefore be seen) than to cower in the right. I represent no more of an obstruction than if I were a car in front of you, Less so as once traffic starts to move again I will move to the right and give you passing room. I will *always* take a lane when I have to turn left and there is a left-hand-turn lane. Just like other cars do. And I do it cautiously, safely, but assertively so that it is clear what I intend. It is by far the safest thing to do (for all the above reasons), and presents no more of an incovenience than a car doing the same thing, beyond the driver getting pissed off by the flawed dogma that "bicycles do not belong on the road". So yes, you've got your free-for-all folks on the road, but that should be a matter of enforcement, to give those bozos a serious reality check. Not only are they endangering themselves and other, but they endanger those of us who take cycling seriously yet have to deal with the road rage inspired by their irresponsible behavior. So please don't lump us all in the same box. Those of us who follow the rules are the ones you don't notice. But we are there and are in plenty supply.
      • You're one a in a million then, come to Toronto and see how bad it gets.
        • Used to live in Boston and NYC. Plenty of assholes who think they own the road in both cities, on both sides of the equation. But I'll posit that just like how you don't notice the majority of the non-assholes behind the wheel that are not a danger to themselves and others, you also don't notice all the bicycles who *do* know how to share the road, usually with larger vehicles with no interest in sharing.
      • by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <social@bronstrup.com> on Monday September 07, 2015 @03:14PM (#50473043) Journal

        Ummm, excuse me, but I fucking do obey the law.

        And nobody sees you doing it. The reason everyone who sees you riding your bike thinks you're an asshole is because the only cyclists who disturb traffic enough to actually be noticed are assholes; literally the only cyclists most people ever actually notice (not see, but actually realize they are seeing) are assholes. Cyclists like yourself who, assuming you're being honest with us, obey traffic laws and don't disrupt the flow of traffic, largely go unnoticed. The end result is that you all look like assholes, even though the majority of you are not. If cops would start enforcing traffic laws equally, the problem would largely solve itself; short of that, though, the cyclist community is going to have to start self-policing before things improve.

  • More drivers. [statista.com]
  • Solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    At the end of the day, reducing cycling accidents may boil down to something simple: Making sure that bikers know the rules of the road — and that drivers know how to deal with bikers.

    Or install separate bike lanes separated by metal posts. Drivers don't want to damage their expensive cars.

    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      Exactly what we have here. Yet, 2 bikers went on a head to head collision and one died. So we would need 2 separated bike lanes, one for each direction. separated by a fence. Let's face it, nowadays people can't concentrate on something for more than 10 seconds, how can you expect them to be able to drive a bike.

      I am looking at you, smartphones, sms, tweeter, facebook.

      These days, almost nobody has enough concentration to fully read a man page or an email more than 10 lines long.

  • by MisterSquid ( 231834 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:29PM (#50472331)

    As a cyclist between the ages of 35 and 54, these statistics directly concern me. That said, I'm a very experienced and highly-capable (not bragging) cyclist.

    The is anecdata, I know, but a handful of people I know (~5) who took up biking and then stopped because of a serious accident have done so because they had an accident while biking after having drinks. I know biking wine tasting in Napa is also a thing.

    In any case, my point is out-loud wondering what percentage of these accidents can be accounted for by drunken cyclists and/or cyclists with impaired/lowered motor skills.

    Please, everyone, ride and drive safely and soberly. Commuting injuries and mortalities are just not worth it.

    • by godrik ( 1287354 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @02:17PM (#50472607)

      Is there really a story here? It seems that these numbers are normalized to a random population and not to the cyclist population. According to http://bikeleague.org/commutin... [bikeleague.org] the number of cyclist rose sharply in that period as well.

      As far as I can tell, there are more cyclist injuries mostly because there are more cyclist. Per mile accident rates are more meaningful than an absolute out of context number.

      That being said, I chose not to bike to work because the drivers where I live (Charlotte,NC) are complete nuts and there are no bike path I can take.

  • by Nova Express ( 100383 ) <lawrenceperson @ g mail.com> on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:37PM (#50472375) Homepage Journal

    ...because I hated running and it hurt my knees. Which is much the same reason George W. Bush [sharetrails.org] took it up.

    It's also easier to do in the Texas heat than running, thanks to the airflow, and doubles as a means of transportation.

  • by mrbill1234 ( 715607 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:41PM (#50472401)
  • Almost as if (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @01:50PM (#50472447) Homepage

    Cyclists shouldn't be sharing the road with two ton steel boxes. Yeah yeah I know you have the same rights as cars but get real. From a physics standpoint you'll always lose. Cycling on roads is a death wish.

  • As people take up longer and longer rides, that means more and more of them biking on roads that have no shoulders, narrow lanes and people driving pretty fast... I've seen this myself over the years, side roads I like to drive on because they are scenic also attract more and more bikers. But eventually probability will catch up wit the bikers on this road - either the biker will swerve to avoid some part of a poorly maintained edge, or a car will drift over to try and escape a large truck coming the other

  • ...more adults across the U.S. are strapping on helmets....

    There is your answer right there. These helmets make the riders think they are safe when the evidence indicates they are not. Thinking they are safe makes them careless and so there are more accidents. Clearly we should outlaw helmets. QED

  • I wonder how much of the spike can be attributed to the cell phone killers.

  • There weren't cell phones in every car in 98-99. That has changed. Younger riders have been going to MTB for a good 20 years, whereas older riders are *still* on the road bikes of their younger days, bikes whose demise had been predicted more frequently than Dvorak with Apple.
  • by tomxor ( 2379126 ) on Monday September 07, 2015 @02:43PM (#50472811)

    From their very own reference: https://jama.jamanetwork.com/a... [jamanetwork.com]

    Another case of people making non news out of misinterpreting statistics. The statistics are from hospital admissions of cycling related injuries "per 100,000 persons" NOT 100,000 cyclist persons. This is no different to saying roads are getting more dangerous because there are more people driving and thus proportionally more driving injuries, get your base line right.

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@@@nerdflat...com> on Monday September 07, 2015 @03:11PM (#50473033) Journal

    I've come to believe that cyclists should require a license to use public roads, if for no other reason than to ensure that the cyclist is at least aware that they are subject to all of the same laws that cars are, because at least half of the time, it really doesn't seem to me like cyclists have a clue. Make the minimum age on it low enough that it not impractical for kids to ride on the roads (once they are old enough to do it safely), but old enough that you can have some kind of statistical assurance they would be able to do so competently in the first place. Maybe age 12 or something. Before that age, they can only cycle on private property or bicycle paths.

    No offense meant to those who cycle and actually play it by the book, and follow all the rules of the road correctly.... I know that there are a lot of you out there, but there's also one helluvalot of people who cycle who apparently can't be bothered to care. A license would at least ensure a minimum education standard so that the person should know what to do, and would also provide a certain amount of accountability.

    • By that logic there should be no bad car drivers on the road since every driver has a license. Most adult cyclists, at least in my city, have a drivers license and so they already know the rules for how they should behave but many are still idiots when they hop on the bike. The rules for bicycles are all included as part of the drivers handbook one studies in order to write the test for their license.

      When I was in grade two or three they had bike safety lessons. I don't know if they still have them but t

  • by alispguru ( 72689 ) <bane&gst,com> on Monday September 07, 2015 @05:54PM (#50474259) Journal

    Two principles to be aware of when you are on a bike in auto traffic:

    1. You are in the most danger when auto traffic crosses your path. Intersections are the most obvious example. Especially dangerous are turning lanes and off-ramps when you are going straight - cars that are changing lanes or preparing to turn are looking for other cars, not bicycles.

    2. If you hear a siren, get off the road NOW. Cars will be trying to get out of the way of emergency vehicles, and looking to avoid other cars, not bicycles.

    I've been a short-distance commuting cyclist since 1994. I've been hit once in traffic - at an off-ramp, by a car that was getting out of the way of a fire truck.

Don't sweat it -- it's only ones and zeros. -- P. Skelly