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Cut injury costs with bike paths

The Post and Courier: Cut injury costs with bike paths

Monday, November 23, 2009

Almost every candidate in recent local elections talked about the need for municipalities to be more bicycle-friendly. They talked about biking as a way to save money, get exercise and show sensitivity to the environment.

Now there is another compelling reason to get serious about accommodating cyclists: health care costs.

A new study presented at the 2009 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons indicates that the severity of bicyle injuries has increased significantly over the past 11 years. In addition, the average length of stay in the hospital for bicycle injuries has grown.

Surgeons who conducted the study in Denver said that more than 33 percent of 329 bicycle injury victims had a significant brain injury. The use of helmets has not changed despite campaigns to educate the public.

They also reported that the number of chest injuries has increased by 15 percent and abdominal injuries have risen three- fold over the past five years.

The doctors pointed out that Denver has a well developed biking infrastructure, and said that a rise in injuries there could be evidence of even more significant problems in areas without adequate designated bike lanes or paths.

The doctors hope to do further research, but meanwhile call for local governments to pay attention to the safety needs of bicyclists just as they do for motorists. That’s a goal that local residents can encourage.