Risks for City Bicyclists Identified in New Study


Riding a bicycle may be good for your health but the city streets can be dangerous for bicyclists.

A new study presented at the 2010 Annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons in Washington DC noted the city streets are particularly dangerous for bicyclists who are young adult males, don’t wear helmets, have had too much to drink, or are listening to music through earphones.

The study commissioned by the State of New York looks at injuries bicyclists sustain in motor vehicle crashes.

Spiros Frangos, MD, MPH, FACS and colleagues presented the preliminary results from the first year of a three-year study. In early analysis of 143 bicyclists injured in traffic crashes, the researchers aimed to identify contributing risk factors.

Of injured cyclists, 87% were men, 96% were over age 18, 76% weren’t wearing helmets, 13% were intoxicated, and 5% were listening to music.

Frangos stated, “The most interesting things are the number of cyclists who have alcohol in their system, and the number of cyclists who wear helmets is unbelievably low.”


New York State law requires all cyclists 13 and younger to wear helmets, yet only 24% of the injured bicyclists were found to be wearing one at the time of injury.

Of those injured, 41% were noted to have sustained injuries on the job. Even with New York City’s mandate of helmets on all working cyclists only about one-third of those working cyclists (32%) were wearing helmets.

When looking at the nature of the bicycle-motor vehicle accidents, the study found 18% of the injured cyclists were using a bike lane, 17% collided with a vehicle door, and 17% of the incidents were hit-and-run. Taxi cabs accounted for 35% of bicyclists’ injuries.

The investigators have been sharing their data with the state and city departments of transportation and health as well as the New York Police Department. They are also seeking a state grant that would have practitioners speak to community groups to reinforce bicycle safety measures and prevent further traumatic injuries to bicyclists..

Coauthors with Drs. Frangos and Ayoung-Chee are George Foltin, MD; Ronald J. Simon, MD, FACS; Deborah Levine, MD; Omar Bholat, MD, FACS; Dekeya Slaughter-Larkem; Steven S. Schumacher, MD, FACS; and H. Leon Pachter, MD, FACS.

For more information on Bicycle Safety: How to Not Get Hit by Cars

American College of Surgeons