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OHSU bike commuter injury study released

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

(Photo © J. Maus)

Back in February we shared a sneak peek at a study done by Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) that tracked bike commuters and monitored the types and severity of injuries they received during a one-year period. That study has now been published and is embedded at the end of this post.

The study is titled, Bicycle Commuter Injury Prevention: It Is Time to Focus on the Environment. It was published in the November 2010 issue of The Journal of TRAUMA® Injury, Infection, and Critical Care.

Here is the background:

Few data exist on the risk of injury while commuting to work or school by bicycle. The proportion of commuters choosing to travel by bike is increasing in the United States, and information on injury incidence and the influences of rider characteristics and environmental factors may suggest opportunities for prevention actions.

When they say “environmental factors” they mean the built environment or the quality of the bikeways and streets and facilities used by bike commuters.

And here are the conclusions:

Approximately 20% of bicycle commuters experienced a traumatic event and 5% required medical attention during 1 year of commuting. Traumatic events were not related to rider demographics, safety practices, or experience levels. These results imply that injury prevention should focus on improving the safety of the bicycle commuting environment.

[Please note that in this case “traumatic event” is a scientific term meaning an event that led to an injury.]

This study should be of great use to advocates pushing for a higher quality, more refined and comfortable bike network. It also struck me as something that has a lot to do with the idea of tolerance we shared a few months back. If you are trying to appeal to the much-ballyhooed “interested but concerned,” a stressful riding environment with high potential for injury might be just enough to keep them from giving bicycling a try.

I hope planners, engineers and electeds take note of this study and allocate more resources to improving the quality — not just the quantity — of our bikeways.

UPDATE: Read a good Q&A with one of the doctors behind the study over at the Mercury blog. Also, see an embed of the study below: