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Adult bicycle crashes now costing US more than $24 billion/year

Adult bicycle crashes now costing US more than $24 billion/year

Costs have risen steadily since 1999; rise in older cyclists and street crashes explain figures

Adult bicycle crashes are now costing more than US$24 billion a year—around double the medical and indirect costs of workplace injuries in the US. And they have been rising steadily since 1999 by an annual US$789 million, finds research published online in the journal Injury Prevention.

The rise in the number of older cyclists (45+) and of street crashes have contributed to these trends, the findings suggest.

The researchers drew on information from federal and regulatory databases to estimate the annual total costs—medical, lost productivity, quality of life—of fatal and non-fatal bicycle injuries among adults across the US between 1999 and 2013.

During this period, some 3.8 million non-fatal adult cycle injuries were reported and 9839 people were killed in a bicycle crash.

Analysis of all the data revealed that inflation-free costs of each adult bicycle crash rose steadily over this period by approximately US$789 million a year. Costs associated with adult bicycle crashes exceeded US$24 billion in 2013—approximately double the annual medical and indirect costs of workplace injuries in the US.

The proportion of costs attributable to older riders rose by an average of 1.6 per cent a year between 1999 and 2013, when this age group accounted for over half (54%) of all costs—up from 26 per cent in 1997.

This age group is more likely to have underlying conditions and require longer recovery periods, say the authors.  And the number of miles cycled each year by older people rose from 1905 million in 2001 to 3645 million in 2009, corresponding to a 91 per cent increase. Since 1999 the number of hospital admissions caused by bicycle crashes has risen by 120 per cent.

An increase in street crashes has also been behind the soaring costs, the figures show. These crashes accounted for 66.5 per cent of total costs in 2013—up from 46 per cent in 1997.

Healthcare is becoming increasingly expensive, so injury prevention efforts need to be stepped up, say the study authors. Building cycle lanes in urban areas might not only help stave off injury but could also be cost effective, they suggest.

“In fact, we could build bicycle lanes in one-sixth of the entire US for the price these injuries have cost us in 10 years,” they suggest.*


*Free quote; not found in text

Research: Estimated total costs from non-fatal and fatal bicycle crashes in the USA: 1997-2013


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