Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Cycling accidents cause the most head injuries


From today's NY Times:

Cycling is the top sport for head injuries

THE FACTS

Last week, New York City began its long-awaited bicycle sharing program, the largest in the nation. As in many other cities, helmet use was made optional, in part to encourage greater participation.

But a look at the statistics suggests that riding without a helmet is not a decision to make lightly. While football tends to dominate the discussion of sports-related head injuries, research shows that bike accidents account for far more
traumatic brain injuries each year.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, cycling accidents
played a role in about 86,000 of the 447,000 sports-related head injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2009. Football accounted for 47,000 of those head injuries, and baseball played a role in 38,394.

Cycling was also the leading cause of sports-related head injuries in children under 14, causing 40,272 injuries, roughly double the number related to football (21,878).

Part of the reason is that bicycling is so ubiquitous. But people are also more cavalier about taking precautions, said Dr. Gonzalo Vazquez-Casals, a neuropsychologist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in New York.

Bicyclists are also at high risk of colliding with motor vehicles, and when riders are not wearing helmets, such collisions frequently result in serious head injuries. For example, about 90 percent of bicyclists killed in the United States in 2009
were not wearing helmets. A majority were middle-aged men.

In New York City, 75 percent of all fatal bike accidents
involve a head injury. In addition to wearing a helmet, another helpful precaution is using a marked bike lane: Streets that have them have 40 percent fewer crashes ending in death or serious injury.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Bike accidents contribute to more sports-related head injuries than any other activity.

Rob's comment: Why is City Hall ignoring the danger and aggressively encouraging people---including children---to ride bikes in San Francisco? Because it sees more people on bikes as an inexpensive way to deal with traffic congestion on city streets, regardless of the obvious safety problem.


A NY Times reporter has a bike accident.

A potential cycling injury reported in the NY Times.
 

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20 Comments:

At 12:23 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Another stat that is very important.

Cycling caused 12,345 more head injuries for people over 50 than Football did. Of course, nobody over 50 plays Football...

 
At 12:24 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"In addition to wearing a helmet, another helpful precaution is using a marked bike lane: Streets that have them have 40 percent fewer crashes ending in death or serious injury."

Sounds like we need to make sure there are streets with marked bike lanes!

 
At 1:57 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

As opposed to taking away street parking and traffic lanes on busy city streets to make bike lanes.

But the moral of the story for everyone but zealots like you, Murph, is that riding a bike is a dangerous way to get around.

 
At 2:24 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Driving a car is a dangerous way to get around. Walking is a dangerous way to get around. We can stay home or take that risk. QED

 
At 5:17 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I'm 70 and in more than 60 years have never had an accident in a car, either as a driver or a passenger. And no accidents as a pedestrian or as a passenger on a bus. But the bike experts---Hurst, Forester, Bert Hill---are realistic about the dangers of riding a bike and show you how to prepare yourself for them. Of course they think the risks are worth the payoff in personal satisfaction and fitness.

But many of the people City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition are encouraging to ride bikes in SF have no realistic sense of the danger---and they won't hear about that from the SFBC or City Hall. I think that's irresponsible.

 
At 6:21 PM, Anonymous ReeD said...

Rob: this is exactly why the sfbc pushes so hard for dedicated bikeways, why else? It's not out of a hatred of anyone not on bikes. Dedicated, grade separated bikeways, have led to decreases in injuries of almost 90% in many cases.

The SFBC holds 2-3 education classes on urban bicycling, the risks, the safety measures everyone should take, including education for drivers, taxis, and muni buses to understand how to share the road with multiple modes in the same space.

In an ideal world, the city would be filled with dedicated bikeways: I have no doubt we'd see the drastic increases in cycling that comes when biking is actually safe for everyone. The problem today is that it remains dangerous on many routes, and only the most dedicated commit to biking in San Francisco. The bike coalition aims to change that through advocacy of increased safety measures, bike lanes, and education throughout the city. The problem is that, since the 40s-50s, our roads were taken away and given exclusive access to cars. That's why when the city seeks to add bike lanes, they're stuck reducing car lanes or removing parking: there's nowhere else to put biking, a transportation model that's been sidelined for almost a century. But biking, as a percentage, is higher than its been since that era.

How do we make biking safer (and walking: there were almost 1,000 pedestrians hit by cars in SF last year alone!) and not have some impact on private vehicle traffic? I don't understand how you can call out a statistic that shows how much safer bikeways can be, but don't offer an option as to how we can build these in San Francisco.

 
At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One quarter of trauma victims are hit by cars. That's a lot. I'm proud you've made it 70 years without getting hit, but 2% of the US population is hit by a car every year, with a car-caused death occurring every 10 minutes. You have a 1/50 chance per year or getting hit, so you're beating the odds at 70 (probably because that likelihood was much lower 50 years ago; you lucked out, you weren't born in the 1980s.) Dying at the hand of a car is #3 on the list of risks we face, after heart disease and cancer. So don't tell me there's no danger there. If you walked around with a helmet, you'd probably reduce those odds drastically.

 
At 10:51 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Anon: You're changing the subject, which is the danger of head injury from cycling.

"That's why when the city seeks to add bike lanes, they're stuck reducing car lanes or removing parking: there's nowhere else to put biking...I don't understand how you can call out a statistic that shows how much safer bikeways can be, but don't offer an option as to how we can build these in San Francisco."

Reed: Good that you at least understand the problem of limited space on city streets. It's a zero-sum game on the streets of SF: We have to take away either traffic lanes or scarce street parking on busy city streets to make bike lanes. Doing that will make traffic worse for more than 90% of the people who now use city streets on behalf of cyclists, who, according to the city's own numbers constitute only 3.4% of all daily trips in the city.

The city and the Bicycle Coalition claim that this is the only way to increase the number of cyclists in the city, but they have no evidence that that will increase cycling enough to justify making traffic worse for everyone else, including our Muni system, which already has serious on-time problems.

Why is that okay? At the very least, the city should put the issue on the ballot so that the city's voters can approve or disapprove of the radical redesign of their streets and we can have a real debate on the issue.

 
At 1:19 PM, Anonymous ReeD said...

But I think the issue here is slightly greater than the percentages game. We spend incredible sums of money on making our cities more accessible and safe to those with disabilities, even though they make up a very small percentage of our population. Biking may make up a small percentage of our population, but it's a transportation option that shouldn't be discouraged or relegated to those who are "daring" or "hardcore," precisely because it's impact on our city is drastically lower than automobile impacts are, and because every death is one too many, and it's our responsibility as a community to decrease that statistic.

To put another way: imagine a fictional world where there are no cars and only bikes. Obviously that's never going to be the case, but in that world we have some advantages:

1. No air pollution.
2. No reliance on foreign (or domestic) oil.
2. Quiet public streets.
3. Risk of death drastically lower.
4. Small footprint for streets and parking (streets would only need to be the width of wide bike lanes.)
5. More public space for community, nature, and gathering.

It's not that this world should exist exactly like this (I'm not arguing for it!), nor is it that this world is something everyone could partake in (not everyone can bike etc.), but just that there are numerous clear benefits that cycling can offer over driving from a community perspective in a dense environment, much of which was built before the invention of the car. Cars are fabulous inventions, but they're particular benefit is being able to go from point-to-point at high speeds. In a city, high speeds simply don't make sense for safety and density issues. Longer distances in shorter times doesn't apply when your city is only 7x7 miles. Point-to-point is interesting, but (for example) downtown simply couldn't handle the capacity of half a million people needing a place to park mid day, and that land would sit vacant at night. It's just not realistic when space is at a premium.

So if we have the power, as a city, to say: "There are, today, more people that would bike if we had safer bike routes." and "We are not okay with people getting killed on our streets continually" then we have to take some sort of action.

As a predominant transit rider, I'd argue one of those things should be to prioritize transit above all else: yes, at the expense of cars. To some extent, I'm sad that no good organization has been able to effectively argue for the same sorts of things the biking community has been able to: e.g., remove a lane of parking to provide a dedicated transit lane.
We should have a transit network that can get you from any point to any other point in 15 minutes or less.

But improving bike routes is another avenue to accomplish similar goals, and I think it's an interesting one. I'm not okay with pedestrians and cyclists getting killed on our streets at the rate that they do. I'm also not okay with the air pollution and land usage generated by and required for private vehicles.

In my mind, it's important to collectively take action to improve these issues, and I'd really encourage you to offer more ideas and directions than simply playing the curmudgeon card. It's incredibly easy to complain, it's entirely different to offer ideas and take action to make things better.

 
At 5:18 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

But the Bicycle Plan will have a significant impact on city traffic, which is what the EIR on the plan told us. When you take away more than 50 traffic lanes on busy streets to make bike lanes, you're going to make traffic worse on that street and other streets in the area. Ditto for removing more than 2,000 street parking spaces in a city where parking is already tight.

And City Hall is doing this based on nothing but the hope that it will result in a meaningful increase in cyclists in the city, thus alleviating traffic congestion.

But a more likely outcome: making traffic worse for everyone.

 
At 5:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parking induces driving. Reduce parking, reduce driving. Win/win!

 
At 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To some extent, I'm sad that no good organization has been able to effectively argue for the same sorts of things the biking community has been able to: e.g., remove a lane of parking to provide a dedicated transit lane.

Look at the people who take transit... Rob Anderson. Only effective at stopping things, not improving things. This is what you get.

 
At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/06/04/overallocation_of_urban_space_to_cars.html

Cars waste space, a HUGE amount of space.

 
At 9:30 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Look at the people who take transit...Rob Anderson. Only effective at stopping things, not improving things. This is what you get."

Some "things" aren't really "improving things." Sometimes the best thing to do is to leave "things" alone.

 
At 9:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Putting children in cars is WAY more safe!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5z__adwlFk

 
At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob's against taking lanes away from cars, even if they're dedicated for transit. Not sure why he thinks this way, since he doesn't drive.

 
At 11:35 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You're "not sure" of a lot of things, including the notion that I don't drive. I have a driver's license; I just don't own a car.

I'm against taking away traffic lanes on busy city streets to make bike lanes. You bike assholes don't really care about transit.

 
At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Rob for the statistic,

I was writing to my District Supervisor after a near collision with a reckless driver running a light and supports my demand safer streets for bikes and pedestrians.

 
At 12:26 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Sounds like you've had a head injury. Better get a checkup right away.

 
At 12:32 PM, Blogger Mark Kaepplein said...

Rob, these comments from bicyclists clearly demonstrate the effects of brain damage from bike accidents. Many can't distinguish reality from their version of a massive multi-player online game without cars and parking.

Claiming that "2% of the US population is hit by a car every year" really fails a sanity check and demands authoritative citation. The US Census does have some facts like only 7 per 1,000 people in the US use bicycles as their primary means to get to work - far less than carpooling.

 

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