Biking Safety in Massachusetts

Biking is healthy. Commuting to work and school by bike is better. Or is it?

While only a very small percentage of trips taken by Americans are by bicycle, bike riders face a significantly higher risk of injury and even death than occupants of motor vehicles.

Biking in Boston has become more common. Bike lanes have been established. Bike rentals are everywhere. Offices and the MBTA offer places to lock your bikes.

But is biking safe? Studies differ. For example, in 2010, 800 bicyclists were killed and more than a half a million sought emergency room treatment for injuries from bike accidents. The medical costs and loss of productivity can be over $5 billion.

Solo Bike Accidents May Be Someone’s Fault

In a study undertaken by a trauma physician at a large hospital in San Francisco, Rochelle Dicker, M.D., there were many interesting conclusions. First, most biking injuries were not directly caused by a motor vehicle. That is, there was no contact with a vehicle. Many times bikes were swerving to avoid a car, or a pedestrian. Thus, while there was perhaps someone else at fault, there was no police report; more than 55% of biking injuries treated at the hospital were not associated with any police report! This made this study of particular interest because most bike injury studies involve reviewing police reports.

Second, bike accidents are “dramatically” underreported. Dr. Dicker used 2,504 medical records of 2,504 injured patients at San Francisco General Hospital where she treats patients. In comparing her results with police reports, Dr. Dicker determined that cyclists who were wounded in non motor vehicle related accidents were more than four times as likely to suffer personal injury in those accidents. One conclusion is that bike accidents are underreported by the police. Why? Perhaps there is a motor vehicle bias? Perhaps because cyclists do not have mandatory insurance, these accidents are underreported by the bikers themselves.

Nevertheless, the medical costs in San Francisco alone, from 2000 to 2009 were $34.9 million.

Bike Helmets and Safety

It seems that medical providers all agree that using a helmet provides a simple safety precaution for bikers. The City of Boston website makes this clear as well.

Other safety tips for biking in Boston include: ride on the right side of the road, ride with traffic, do not ride on the sidewalk, use hand signals for turns, follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicles including traffic signs and lights, beware of vehicles pulling out from parked spots, beware of folks opening doors into your lane, watch for break lights (indicating stopping or slowing vehicles) and look behind you before turning.

Commuting By Bike

There are many reasons to commute to work by bike. It’s healthier for your cardio and muscular system. It reduces pollution. It saves you money on gas and vehicle maintenance. In addition, in many instances you may be able to reduce the time associated with travelling to work. But, be sure to balance these positives with the safety news and information above.

Experienced Bike Accident Lawyer

If you know someone who was injured or killed in a bike accident, contact an attorney with experience in personal injury and bike accidents since 1985. Attorney Neil Burns has bike accident experience. Many times extensive investigation and witness examination is needed. Many times there is no police report as indicated by Dr. Dicker’s research; other times, the police report is biased because the police take the information from the motorist first. Get an experienced attorney on your side for bike accident injuries!


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