Study says bike-sharing programs may increase head injury risk

Study says bike-sharing programs may increase head injury risk

Cities in California thinking about starting a bike-sharing program may want to hear about a new study on brain injuries first. A study by researchers in the United States and Canada found that the risk of serious brain injuries increased in cities with bike-sharing programs compared to cities without them.

The researchers looked at several cities in the U.S. and in Canada with bike-sharing programs and compared them to cities without them. They looked at the rate of head injuries caused by bicycle accidents in these cities and reported that the bike-share program is linked to more head injuries for bike riders.

The study found that the risk of head injuries increased by 14 percent in cities with bike-sharing programs. The risk of brain injuries was unchanged in cities without bike-sharing programs.

The researchers said that they couldn't prove a direct link between bike-sharing programs and higher head injuries but it likely plays a role. They said that they could not distinguish if the victims injured in bicycle accidents were using the bike-share program at the time of the injury. However, it is likely that some of the victims suffered head injuries when they were using bicycles from the program.

Many people who use bike-sharing programs probably don't carry around helmets all the time and since these programs don't provide any helmets, it's up to the rider to bring one. This could be why head injuries are more likely to occur in cities with bike-sharing programs.

The suggestion that bike-sharing programs may increase the risk of head injuries is troubling as more cities are starting these programs, including in California. One of the most important things bike-sharing programs could do to reduce the risk of serious head injuries is provide riders with helmets.

Head injuries can lead to traumatic and long-term complications that affect the rest of a person's life. Cities and individuals should be aware of the risks of riding without a helmet and take steps to stay safe.

Source: National Public Radio, "Brain Injuries Rose In Cities After Bike-Sharing Rolled Out," Scott Hensley, June 12, 2014

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