Bicycle Safety

Bicycling is a popular activity in the United States. Bicycles are owned by approximately 30% of the U.S. population, and 45% of bike owners ride at least occasionally. Between 80%-90% of children own a bicycle by the time they are in second grade.

Each year, nearly 1,000 people die from injuries caused by bicycle crashes, and 550,000 people are treated in emergency departments for injuries related to bicycle riding. Approximately 33,000 of the bicycle riders treated in emergency departments require hospitalization. Head injuries account for 62% of bicycle-related deaths; 33% of bicycle-related emergency department visits; and 67% of bicycle-related hospital admissions.

  • Children between the ages of 5 and 14 have the highest rate of injury of all bicycle riders.
  • Annually, more than 500,000 children go to hospital emergency rooms or doctors' offices due to bicycle injuries.
  • More than half of collisions happen on neighborhood streets, sidewalks, or playgrounds.
  • Wearing a helmet is the single most important intervention that can protect a person's brain - and life - when bicycling.

Bicycle Helmets and The Prevention of Head Injury

The implementation of effective bicycle helmet programs could have a substantial impact on rates for fatal and nonfatal bicycle-related head injuries. Currently, only 18% of bicyclists claim to wear helmets all or most of the time. The rate of helmet use is even lower for children - only 15% wear helmets on a regular basis. If helmet use could be increased to 100%, an average of 500 fatal and 151,000 nonfatal bicycle-related head injuries could be prevented each year.

My Aching Head!

In a severe bicycle accident the skull may be fractured and the brain torn by penetrating objects and bone fragments. Even if the skull is undamaged, the brain may be injured by sudden and violent impacts. Most brain injuries are irreversible. Helmets are designed to protect the brain and the skull during an impact. They decrease the risk of head injuries by 85%. Always choose helmets with the following characteristics:

  • ANSI or Snell approved.
  • Snug fit
  • Do not rock back and forth or side to side.
  • Covers the top of the forehead.
  • The strap is adjusted to fit securely.

Other Safety Tips

  • Always obey traffic signs and signals.
  • Stop and check for traffic before entering a street.
  • Ride on the right hand side of the road with the flow of traffic.
  • Give cars and pedestrians the right-of-way.
  • Avoid broken pavement.
  • Form a single line when riding in groups.
  • Walk the bike across busy intersections.
  • Use hand signals.
  • Never ride at dusk or in the dark.
  • Never wear audio headphones.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. AAA