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New UCHealth study shows 80 percent increase in bike accidents since 2006

For immediate release: Nov. 15, 2013                                   

Nicole Caputo, 970-237-7112 or 970-568-2796 

New UCHealth study shows 80 percent increase in bike accidents since 2006

Dr. Terri Marty, UCHealth trauma surgeon, on a daily ride
near Horsetooth Mountain Park in Fort Collins.

A new study shows the number of injured bicyclists jumped by 80 percent from 2006 to 2012 in Fort Collins and Loveland.

The study found that 180 bicyclists injured in 2006 were treated at two University of Colorado Health hospitals in northern Colorado: Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins and Medical Center of the Rockies, Loveland.

The number of injuries increased to 325 riders in 2012, the study stated. Additionally, the study showed nine fatalities since 2007 with three since August.

The results prompted the main researcher, a trauma surgeon, to call for more community education to improve street safety for bicyclists.

"We need more education and awareness for both bicyclists and motorists," said Dr. Terri Marty, vice chief of PVH surgery who conducted the study with a team of University of Colorado Health colleagues. The study is completed but not yet published.

Dr. Marty said she has observed what she believes is another disturbing trend: more injuries of intoxicated young adults who did not wear protective helmets while riding bicycles. "This trend cannot continue. It's not acceptable to hop on a bike, or in a car, without proper knowledge and safety measures," said Dr. Marty.

An avid bicyclist and mother of two teens who ride bikes in Fort Collins, Dr. Marty said the study's findings suggested:

  • Most fatal and non-fatal bicycle-vehicle accidents occur from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., the typical rush hour, a time when visibility may be limited due the setting sun and motorists may drive at higher speeds. In Fort Collins and Loveland, 30 percent of fatal accidents happen during the early morning hours.
  • National Highway Safety Data shows bicyclists under the age of 24 are more likely to be at fault in an accident, while in cases where bicyclists and drivers range in age from 25 to 55, the fault almost always lies with the driver of the vehicle. However, in cases where bicyclists are 56 years or older, the fault typically is half and half as far whether cyclists or motorists are to blame.
  • The research reinforced the need for bicyclists to wear reflective and bright clothing and always wear a protective helmet. In addition, better enforcement of traffic laws and more and improved bike lanes, especially on busier streets, are needed, she said.

The study reviewed demographics, such as ages of cyclists and motorists, as well as types of injuries and outcomes of care. Results were compared to similar information available from the National Trauma Data Bank, the nation's largest collection of trauma data. Dr. Marty said the comparison showed the local trend generally reflects national statistics.

Marty said she could not overlook the irony that exists in the increasing trend of bicycle accidents. Fort Collins is one of the four cities deemed the most bicycle-friendly by the League of American Bicyclists, an advocacy and educational organization for bicyclists. However, from 2006 to today, bike accidents are increasing.

Janet Werst, UCHealth injury prevention coordinator, echoes Dr. Marty's thoughts. Werst said a greater encouragement of living a healthy lifestyle by health professionals and a focus on better infrastructure, mean more bicyclists on roads and trails. "Seeing more bicyclists is awesome, but everyone, bicyclists and drivers alike, need to be more aware and more educated on the rules of the road."

"And, please, wear a helmet," Werst advised. 


--University of Colorado Health--

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