Enjoy Bike Month Safely:
Bicycling Safety Considerations To Keep in Mind from Recent Injury Prevention Research
Bicycling is an enjoyable form of physical activity for many people. Most people (89.8%) in a recent survey have ridden a bicycle at one point in their life.1 People ride bicycles for a variety of different reasons. A recent survey found that most survey respondents (76%) ride bicycles for fun and almost half (47%) also ride bicycles for exercise.1 Many (22%) ride bicycles to ride with friends, family, or coworkers who ride bicycles as well to commute to work or school (27%).1 Only a few people say they ride bicycles to help the environment (18%), run errands (6%), for bicycling competitions (2%) or do not ride bicycles at all (6%).1
The month of May is National Bike Month in the U.S. Celebrate Bike Month safely by taking into consideration recent bicycling safety research when riding a bicycle.
Wearing bicycling helmets has been proved to be effective in reducing head injuries as well as fatalities. Specifically, wearing helmets were found to reduce head injuries by 48%, serious head injuries by 60%, and traumatic brain injuries by 53% by a recent meta-analysis study.2 In addition, wearing bicycling helmets has been found to be protective against facial injuries, including facial fractures, as well as reduced hospitalization costs for those involved in a bicycling accident while wearing a bicycle helmet compared to those not wearing a helmet. 2,3,4
While wearing a bicycle helmet is definitely recommended, it is also important to note that the design of bicycle helmets is continuously improving and that not all bicycle helmets have the same level of protection against head injuries.5 It could be a good idea to get a new bicycle helmet every few years as well as more thoroughly research the safety, design, and customer reviews of different kinds of bicycling helmets before purchasing one.
It is important to keep in mind that bicycle helmets do not protect other areas of the body in case of a collision or other bicycling accident. For example, shoulder injuries, some of which can be quite serious, can occur from bicycling accidents and there is not yet any protective gear designed specifically for protecting the shoulders in case of an accident while riding a bicycle.6 This could be a great new market for the entrepreneurial minded looking to design a type of shoulder protective gear or adapt designs from other sports to be used for shoulder protection for bicyclists. For those who simply ride bicycles and are interested in designing gear to protect their shoulders, this can be a reminder to follow other safe practices for riding bicycles, such as following the rules of the road and not riding a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or other substances, in addition to wearing a helmet and to not ride more recklessly just because a helmet is being worn.
Visibility of the bicyclist on the road or on the trail is also an important safety factor to take into consideration. Using at least one visibility aid, such as a flashing light or reflective clothing while bicycling can reduce the chance of hospitalization from a motor vehicle collision.7 Wearing light colored clothing on the upper body to improve visibility while bicycling in the daytime, not just at night, is also important in reducing the risk of collision with motor vehicles.7
Attaching reflective tape to the back of the bicycle frame was founded to greatly increase the visibility of the bicycle at night and is a method highly recommended by the researchers,8 although may not be a popular idea with bicyclists who are concerned about the appearance of their bicycle and the risk of damaging the bicycle’s paint with reflective tape. Attaching reflective tape to the bicycle pedals was also found to improve bicycle visibility at night, but not as much as attaching the tape to the back of the bicycle frame.8
Another way of improving safety while bicycling can be through bicycling specific safety training specific. In a study of evidence based hazard perception training used with young elementary school aged bicyclists found that after the training, the young bicyclists detected more hazards and reacted more quickly than a control group of young bicyclist who did not receive the training.9 Focusing on safety when learning to ride a bicycle at a young age may help reduce bicycling accidents.
In addition to adolescents, older adults are another population who may be more at risk for bicycling injuries. While bicycling has many health benefits for older adults, such as maintaining balance control and coordination through regular bicycling which can help the risk of falling while walking, it is especially important that older adult bicyclists follow all safety precautions and only bicycle under safe conditions to avoid potentially debilitating injuries.10,11
Reviewing recent injury prevention research on different aspects of bicycling safety can give insight as how to take these ideas into consideration when celebrating National Bike Month in the month of May in the U.S. and enjoying a safe ride on a bicycle.
What recent bicycling safety research have you heard of that I didn’t include in this article? Share a link to it in the comments below!
Jillian Regan, MPH is a consultant at Rillian. She enjoys helping organizations find new ways or evaluate improve existing community health improvement efforts, so that the organization can better serve its community members, clients, customers, patients, or other stakeholders. Connect with her by email at Jillian.Regan@RillianConsulting.com or Twitter (@JillianReganMPH) or LinkedIn.
This post was created in collaboration with two of Rillian’s affiliated businesses, Jillian Regan Photography and Jill + Ian. Rillian conducted research and development for a bicycle rental service that Jill + Ian now runs. Jillian Regan Photography provides photography and photos for Rillian.
1. Regan J. Not yet published preliminary results from recent bicycling survey. 2018.
2. Høye A. Bicycle helmets – To wear or not to wear? A meta-analyses of the effects of bicycle helmets on injuries. Accid Anal Prev. 2018 Apr 17;117:85-97. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2018.03.026.
3. Fitzpatrick DG, Goh M, Howlett DC, Williams M. Bicycle helmets are protective against facial injuries, including facial fractures: a meta-analysis. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2018 Apr 2. Pii: S0901-5027(18)30077-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijom.2018.03.005.
4. Michael PD, Davenport DL, Draus JM Jr. Bicycle Helmets Save More than Heads: Experience from a Pediatric Level I Trauma Hospital. Am Surg. 2017 Sep 1; 83(9): 1007-1011.http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/sesc/tas/2017/00000083/00000009/ art00039;jsessionid=34vhu1ejf2uao.x-ic-live-01
5. Bland ML, Zuby DS, Mueller BC, Rowson S. Differences in the protective capabilities of bicycle helmets in real-world and standard-specified impact scenarios. Traffic Inj Prev. 2018 Feb 28;19(sup1):S158-S163. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2017.1388915.
6. Goldstein Y, Dolkart O, Kaufman E, Amar E, Sharfman ZT, Rath E, Mozes G, Maman E. Bicycle-Related Shoulder Injuries: Etiology and the Need for Protective Gear. Isr Med Assoc J. 2016 Jan;18(1):23-6.
7. Hagel BE, Romanow NT, Morgunov N, Embree T, Couperthwaite AB, Voaklander D, Rowe BH. The relationship between visibility aid use and motor vehicle related injuries among bicyclists presenting to emergency departments. Accid Anal Prev. 2014 Apr; 65:85-96. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2013.12.014. Epub 2014 Jan 3.
8. Costa M, Bonetti L, Bellelli M, Lantieri C, Vignali V, Simone A. Reflective Tape Applied to Bicycle Frame and Conspicuity Enhancement at Night. Hum Factors. 2017 May; 59(3): 485-500. Doi: 10.1177/0018720816677145. Epub 2016 Dec 6.
9. Zeuwts LHRH, Vansteenkiste P, Deconinck FJA, Cardon G, Lenoir M. Hazard perception training in young bicyclists improves early detection of risk: A cluster-randomized controlled trial. Accid Anal Prev. 2017 Nov;108:112-121. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2017.08.024. Epub 2017 Sep 1
10. Ikpeze, TC,Glaun, G, McCalla, D ,Elfar, J. Geriatric Cyclists: Assessing Risks, Safety, and Benefits. Geriatr Orthop Surg Rehabil. 2018 Jan 23;9:2151458517748742. doi: 10.1177/2151458517748742. eCollection 2018.
11. Batcir S, Melzer I. Daily Bicycling in Older Adults May Be Effective to Reduce Fall Risks – A Case Control Study. J Aging Phys Act. 2018 Jan 18:1-21. doi: 10.1123/japa.2017-0263