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Cyclist Traffic Injuries on the Rise

Updated on February 15, 2016
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Austin, Texas is consistently one of the “fittest” states in the United States and a big reason for this is the numbers of bicyclists that are constantly on the roadways, whether it is for commuting, recreation or sport training. Unfortunately, this rise in the number of bicyclists in Austin also increases the number of bike related crashes and injuries that occur on a daily basis. Fortunately, Austin enjoys some of the most bike friendly laws in the nation. Many dangers lurk for those of us that ride bikes on a regular basis including other bikes, cars, roadway obstacles and pedestrians. Regardless how safely you ride or what safety equipment you use; bike crashes can happen.

According to the American Medical Association, hospital admissions due to cycling injuries related to motor vehicles more than doubled between 1998 and 2013. Surprisingly, the rise was felt the most among riders that are 45 years and older. Another study published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly found an unusual trend with bicycle and vehicle related deaths: the death rate among child bike riders and vehicle accidents has dropped substantially in the last 30 years while the death rate among adult cyclists between the ages of 35 to 55 has almost tripled in number.

What is the driving force in the surge in bike riders among Generation X. Are we becoming a society that is more aware of the environmental impact that reducing vehicle emissions? Are people becoming more concerned with their health and opting for the additional aerobic workout? Are people hopping on the latest sports trends? Some believe it could be in part due to the “Lance Armstrong effect.” After local Austinite Lance Armstrong had his share of successes in the Tour de France, more people started taking up the sport of cycling to pay homage to the great American cycling hero.

A National Household Travel Survey showed that the majority of the increase in bicycling between 1995 and 2013 came from Americans older than 25, with the biggest increases coming from men in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. Pair lightweight road bikes, newbie cyclists unfamiliar with cycling etiquette, riding at extremely high speeds on major roadways and you have a recipe for serious injuries or possibly even death.

So what can be done to keep riders in this age group safe? Basic safety precautions are absolutely essential. Wear a helmet and reflective gear, have lights for night riding, and drive defensively and responsibly. But even that might not be enough. Society also needs to change the definition of what a road is to implicitly include cyclists of all natures. Some cities like Madison, San Francisco, Austin and Portland are starting to do a better job at making urban roads more cyclist and commuter friendly. Cities are slowing down speeds on heavy biking routes, adding protective lanes just for cyclists and using different-colored paint to mark shoulders and lanes designated for cars and bikes only.

But at the end of the day, reducing cyclist related car accidents may boil down to something much simpler: Making sure that cyclists know the rules of the road and that drivers know how to deal with them. Sharing the road and respecting traffic laws for both cyclists and drivers will go a long way in preventing catastrophic injuries and cyclist fatalities. Traffic laws that apply to cars also apply to cyclists, including stopping at red lights, maintaining a safe distance between vehicles and using proper signaling for turning or stopping. Drive defensively and ride safely is the name of the game.

If you have been injured in a cycling related accident or lost a loved one due to a vehicle related crash, contact the Personal Injury lawyers at Zinda & Davis to get on advice about pursuing an injury or wrongful death claim.

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