In statistics from 2013, the last year available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 490,000 emergency room visits were bicycle-related injuries. More than 900 bicyclists were killed on the roads, and totals from 2010 show the combined costs of fatal and non-fatal crashes totaled $10 billion in lifetime medical and lost productivity costs.
In short, that means bicycling carries a high risk of injury. Sadly, most of it is not because the bicyclist did something wrong. It’s because an automobile driver did something to cause the crash, and because the bicyclist often has only a helmet and their clothing between them and disaster, there’s little protection from some serious issues.
Part of the problem is the profile of the bicycle. Like motorcycles, bicycles present a unique vertical profile that may be hard to see because drivers are not trained to look for something narrow. The other issue is that bicyclists have to share the road with drivers who may not be aware of their right of way. Most bicyclists travel slower than automobiles or trucks, so they wind up being edged out of position on the roadway, which can lead to problems.
Adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 20 and adults age 45 and older have the highest rates of bicycle deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As for non-fatal bicycle accidents, children ages 5 to 14, adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 24 have the highest injury rates, accounting for 52 percent of all bicycle-related injuries treated in United States emergency rooms. Most are male and most occur in an urban area at non-intersection locations.