Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Harvard Health Letter on cycling

From the August edition of the Harvard Health Letter:

Cycling is a great way to get outside and exercise. But take care when you're on the road. Adult bicycle crashes have skyrocketed since 1999, and associated medical costs are soaring with them, according to a study published online June 1, 2017, by Injury Prevention. Researchers looked at information from federal and regulatory databases from 1999 to 2013, and observed that nonfatal crashes during that time involving cyclists ages 45 or older went from about 42,000 to 122,000 per year. 

Costs associated with adult bicycle injuries during the study period increased almost $800 million per year, reaching $24 billion in 2013. What does that mean for your health? Study authors suggest focusing on injury prevention. Make sure to wear a helmet and reflective clothing; stick to bike paths instead of the street; don't use clips to keep your feet on the pedals, which can make injuries worse if you fall; don't ride alone; stay hydrated before, during, and after your ride; and use sunscreen and sunglasses.

Rob's comment:
I've posted about this study before: here, here, here.

Given all the advice in the second paragraph, this is reminiscent of the recommendations of author/bike messenger Robert Hurst and Bert Hill in a 2005 Chronicle article:

Gaze at rush-hour traffic on city streets for about 30 seconds, and any notion of transforming yourself into a brave urban bicyclist might seem like Mission: Impossible. However, experienced wheelmen say this dream is indeed achievable for most. All it requires is: everything you've got...

That is, if you accept this "mission," you must understand that it's intrinsically dangerous, that sooner or later, in the words of former Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius who used to ride his bike downtown, "There were just too many close calls. Sooner or later I was going DOWN."

When you do take the inevitable fall, Hill and Hurst offer some advice:

Fall with style: Sooner or later, an urban cyclist will be bumped or dumped, either by his or her own action (Hill says 45 percent of all crashes are solo falls, only 18 percent involve a vehicle), or by something done unto him or her. That's why you always, always, ride wearing a quality helmet and gloves. Abrasion-resistant clothing is a plus. When you start to go over, get your arms out, but don't make them stiff. Use them to absorb initial impact, yes, but even more to steer your fall into a body roll. Want to practice falls? Take a class in judo or aikido.

More on "solo falls" that are more common than being hit by a car.

Hill had the inevitable cycling accident several years ago.

My advice: Don't do it. Don't ride a bike in the city or anywhere else. It's simply too dangerous for old people and young people---City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition are irresponsibly encouraging even children to ride bikes to school.

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At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yup, i know i am rolling the dice, at age 63. I ride on weekends in the city. Usually a fixed route that , to the extent possible, avoids the crazy streets and has some sort of marked bike lane. But even with green paint it doesn't make it safer. I have fallen before, when crossing muni tracks and that is still a fear. No matter how good a cyclist you think you are, there are obstacles that always present themselves waiting to take you down.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I know there are a lot of smart cyclists like you who understand the risks and don't expect the city to make riding a bike completely safe.

My argument: riding a bike is being radically oversold as a sensible transportation "mode" while downplaying the risks. Unwary would-be cyclists are urged to take it up to be green and with-it. Even city children are encouraged to ride bikes to school, which is grossly irresponsible.

Not to mention redesigning city streets for a small minority based on nothing but the hope that enough people will take it up to justify screwing up traffic for everyone else using city streets.

At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This recent NYTimes OpEd about the writer's mother being killed by a cyclist who ran a red light is worthwhile reading .


At 2:10 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I saw that story. Here's a clickable link.

It's both relatively rare and not unusual for cyclists to kill pedestrians. See this, this, and this.

Like speeding motorists, when cyclists speed there's less margin for error. When something goes wrong, someone gets hurt.

At 2:13 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Another try at that first link.


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