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It's no mystery that playing sports has always come at a cost; possible injuries that, if not treated properly and in a timely manner, could have life-long lasting effects. Whether the injury be a small twist of the ankle, or a fatal bone breakage, cycling has always been one of the highest contributors to sports related ER visits as a whole. According to John Hopkins Medicine Journal, “more than 200,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries (in 2009).” Cycling is considered the second most dangerous sport, right after football.
When we think of cycling, we don't normally view it as a high-risk activity. That's why it's common to get children on a bike starting at the youngest age possible. Cycling has come to be known as a “necessary skill”, like swimming. Children take swimming lessons when they're young to avoid the terrors of drowning in deep waters; and cycling is learned as a way to keep kids active, and provide a new social outlet. While cycling has become a great way for kids to stay fit and feel a sense of independence, it has also continued to be a larger hazard to both children and adults.
One of the biggest causes for bicycle-related accidents are vehicle-pedestrian collisions. Cycling is unlike any other common sport in that it is also a very popular and effective mode of transportation. This being the case, it is far more likely that a cyclist will face a car accident, leading to a fatal injury, or even death. In 2015, 818 people lost their lives in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts). This number has continued to rise each year with the addition of new vehicles and bikers sharing the same roads. Although bicycle fatalities represent less than two percent of all traffic fatalities (Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center), it is still an issue that must be addressed and solved through taking on further safety precautions.
Here are a few myths that can be de-bunked for those daredevil cyclists out there:
1. You only have to wear a helmet if you're a kid still learning how to ride a bike, or maybe if you're riding on roads with heavy traffic.
A: NO! This is so far from the truth, and if we continue to believe that this is the case, then the percentage of cycling-relating deaths per year will only continue to increase. Almost three-quarters of fatal crashes (74%) involve a head injury (NYC Government). Riding a bike can take you up to extreme speeds, which is why people use it for an alternative mode of transportation. Being in a car automatically adds an extra layer of protection that cyclists don't have. If a cyclist isn't protecting their head while riding, and small accident could be the cause of a fatal head injury, simply because a bike in itself offers no real protection.
2. If there's a bike lane, I'll always be safe on a road. Drivers know to look out for me.
A: This should be true, but unfortunately, it isn't. Drivers tend to move quickly and with little patience. A driver can only do so much if they catch a biker out of the corner of their eye before making a move that can hurt the both of them, and that's why bikers should always be cognizant of their surroundings as well. Cyclists should always be doing their absolute best to make themselves visible to drivers; this includes using lights blinkers, gesturing when turning, wearing neon colors, and trying to avoid riding at night whenever possible.
3. There are no rules for a cyclist. I grew up biking from neighborhood to neighborhood and was never told I couldn't go somewhere, and the same applies now that I'm an adult.
A: Well, I'm sorry to tell you that while it might be easier for bikes to weave through traffic, certain rules still apply to how you should be riding. Simple courtesies should be taken, like riding with the flow of traffic instead of against it, stopping at lights and stop signs, always yielding to pedestrians, and making sure you park your bike in the proper place. If cars have to follow these rules to ensure safety, there must be a reason for you as a cyclist to be doing that too.
When more precautions are taken as a cyclist, the world is left with less injury. Overall, cycling is an excellent form of physical activity, and an amazing way to reduce pollution from cars. When the right safety measures are taken, we won't be riding our bikes to the grave, but instead be living the best and healthiest lifestyle we possibly can.