A recent study by journal Injury Prevention has found a dramatic increase in emergency room visits and hospital admissions among people injured in non-fatal and fatal bicycle crashes in the United States.  The cost for each crash has as also risen.

According to the report, both increases were due to rising ridership but the increase in accident costs were mainly due to more riders over age 45 and more accidents involving vehicles.

“Our hope is that by quantifying these costs it will help to spur discussion and policy surrounding infrastructure for safe cycling,” said Dr. Breyer of the University of California, San Francisco.

Using adult bicycle injury data collected between 1997 and 2013, researchers set out to determine how medical and quality of life costs had evolved over time.

The report found:

  • 3.8 million non-fatal adult bicycle injuries and 9,839 deaths were reported for the period.
  • Total costs of bicycle injuries for the period were $209 billion for non-fatal injuries and $28 billion for fatalities.
  • Non-fatal biking injuries increased by about 6,500 per year and total costs rose by an average of $789 million annually.  Injury costs per mile fell from $2.85 in 2001 to $2.35 in 2009.
  • Non-fatal biking injuries rose nearly 140%, from 9.3 billion in 1997, to $22.4 billion in 2013.

Dr. Breyer also noted that biking infrastructure, although expensive, could help in bringing down these costs.

“In fact, we could build cycling infrastructure in one-sixth of the entire U.S. for the same cost of all these injuries in 10 years,” said Breyer.

Morteza Asgarzadeh, a researcher at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, said, “while bicycling has many health benefits, injuries can be costly and lengthy, especially for people over 40. Prevention is still the best and least expensive way to tackle the issue. Encouraging people to use bicycles must occur along with building safer cycling infrastructure such as cycle tracks and better street lighting. Bicyclists, especially the older sub-populations, should become well-informed about the risks they take by using bicycles.”