In recent years, a growing number of people have opted for bicycles over cars for their daily commutes. Not only is riding a bike around better for the environment, but is also a good way to get exercise. Unfortunately, riding a bicycle is not without risks.
$789 million – according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), that’s the annual increase in medical costs attributed to non-fatal bike accidents. And that’s just the beginning of the big numbers. The same study also noted that the total tab for bicycle accidents reached a staggering $24.4 in 2013. From 1997 to 2013, it cost an incredible $237 billion to treat bike injuries sustained by adults.
In a press release detailing the study, first author Thomas W. Gaither stated that “the costs of bicycle injuries have risen steadily since 1997, with a significant increase in emergency department visits and hospital admissions, especially with older men.” Likewise, the nature of such accidents has also changed as well. “In the past, many bicycle accidents stemmed from non-street incidents. But now, street crashes with motor vehicles represent a greater proportion of the total costs. These crashes, which primarily occur with motor vehicles, increase the velocity of the crash impact and, as a result, the severity of the injury.”
In 1997, the authors reported that 26 percent of bike accident victims were aged 45 and older. By 2013, this figure had more than doubled to 54 percent.
Cleaning Up the Streets
So what is the solution to this growing problem? The answer, in the opinion of lead author and UCSF associate professor Benjamin N. Breyer, might lie in the construction of roads more suited for cycling. “Many of these injuries are preventable with safer roads. We can learn lessons from the cycling environment in some European cities, where they have more riders and fewer accidents per rider. We can learn lessons from the cycling environment in some European cities, where they have more riders and fewer accidents per rider. As our cities become more dense and we look for ways to promote active commuting to benefit health and environment, we need to invest long term into our bicycling infrastructure.”