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Study Finds Bikes Only Second to Cars in Childhood Injuries

childhood bike-related injuries second only to carsThe green movement has espoused the use of bicycles as a carbon-neutral form of transportation. Health experts suggest bicycle riding can combat childhood obesity.

A new report reveals an estimated 389,300 children and adolescents 18-years and younger were treated in emergency departments for bicycle-related injuries, making bicycles second only to cars in consumer products that cause childhood injuries.

Even with mandated helmets and safety programs, children are experiencing contusions and abrasions (30 percent), lacerations (30 percent) and fractures (19 percent) mostly to their extremities followed closely by face and head injuries. According to the study, boys are 70% more likely than girls to be hurt on bikes. Tracy Mehan, a research associate at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and author of a new study explains the results:[social_buttons]

While the number of injuries decreased slightly over the 16-year study period, in 2005 an average of 850 children per day were seen in emergency departments for bicycle-related injuries.  The magnitude of bicycle-related injuries each year is evidence that prevention of these injuries needs to remain a priority.

I believe it is unfair to blame bicycles completely for childhood injuries, and although I agree more efforts should be placed on safety and helmet programs, I imagine a majority of these injuries were car-related. If car-related bicycle injuries were credited to just cars, I wonder how bicycles would fair on the list of consumer products causing childhood injuries. A huge aspect of prevention that needs to be addressed is driver education so that children are safe while sharing the road.

Image:  MattNJohnson on Flickr under a Creative Commons License


  1. Good evening,
    I’m a League-certified cycling safety instructor and I instruct mostly children. In our (nationally distributed) safety literature and courses we make a big deal of the fact that 80% of bicycle crashes involve only the cyclist. This means they are due to careless riding, inadequate maintenance or insufficient skill for the riding conditions. Kids crash because they aren’t taught to ride safely. Education is the key. This 80% statistic is the reason we have helmet laws. Helmets were used as a band-aid solution, rather than teaching kids to ride safely.

    In European countries every 4th grade school child gets a full day a bike safety education, takes a test (which they must pass) and gets a certificate permitting them to ride on the street. They don’t require helmets. If we had this education in our schools we’d eliminate 80% of bike crashes.

    Helmets only mitigate head injuries in minor crashes. It’s what’s INSIDE our head the PREVENTS crashes – and that’s the whole reason for trying to protect it.

    Nick Hein
    Morgantown, WV

  2. Nick Hein, interesting info. Is it true that the most serious accidents involve cars? I still remember as a kids using only my front brake and flipping over my bike. A little education could have prevented this stupid move. I really like the idea of biker safety being included in public education.

  3. I do not know the statistics for car-related accidents involving children on bikes. One thing is sure: there will continue to be far too many such accidents until there are proper safe bicycle lanes and paths and until the power of the car is to some extent curbed.

    Anyone who wishes to experience this almost-Utopia has only to go cycling in Holland!

    Training children to ride safely is a good thing but I fear it will result in more loss of life rather than less if we do not get the other side of the equation balanced by pushing for decent, wide bike paths with proper crossings at junctions. Again, see Holland!

  4. Rona, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a bike lane that was separate from the street, like sidewalks are? I’m not sure what this would do to green spaces in towns, but that way kids would not be sharing the road with cars.

  5. Have you noticed though that lots children (even adults) on bikes do act in a very irresponsible manner by kerb hopping and often dodging in and out of traffic?
    I’m all for full educational facilites for responsible bike travel whilst at the same time educating vehicle drivers about bike presence and the need for being more alert.
    Respect has to work from all parties! Cyclists should take a test to be allowed to travel on traffic roads like anybody else. How else could they be proficient with all of these very difficult and dangerous traffic systems? Likewise an appreciation of cyclists and how they use the roads should also be incorporated into the driving test for cars etc.


  6. Karen, that’s an interesting thought that cyclists should have to pass a test. I’m not sure how people would react to that, but I think you are correct that responsibility goes both ways for safety.

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