As Covid-19 restrictions are loosened and the warm weather and sunshine of summer invite Missourians out of their homes, one of the most common outdoor activities for adults and children alike will be bicycling.
According to the Missouri Bicycle Federation, Inc., bicycling is the most popular recreational activity in the United States, next to walking. It is the leading exercise activity for professionals over the age of 40. The New York Times and Time Magazine have referred to bicycling as “the new golf.” In fact, more people participate in bicycling than golf, skiing, and tennis combined.
There are about two million bicyclists and over 100 local bicycle shops in Missouri, alone. Every year, more than 1.6 million people visit Missouri to hike or bicycle its scenic trails, making bicycling one of Missouri’s leading tourist activities. Missouri’s 240-mile Katy Trail hosts half a million bicycle enthusiasts and hikers every year. Missourians, themselves, take about 20 million bicycle trips annually.
With so many bicyclists sharing trails with pedestrians and roadways with motor vehicles, accidents involving bicyclists are unavoidable and can result in death or serious injury. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, bicyclists account for 2% of all car accident deaths in the United States.
Unfortunately, bicycle accident fatalities are increasing. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), there were 846 bicyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2019. In January 2021, Outside Magazine released data showing that 675 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2020, with one-quarter of them involving a hit-and-run. This is a sharp decrease from the previous year, however, the data also revealed that traffic in 2020 was reduced by 41 percent because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Under normal traffic conditions, 2020 could have set a record high for bicyclist fatalities resulting from motor vehicle accidents.
Here are some other surprising statistics involving bicyclist fatalities that are relevant to all Missouri bicyclists:
- 61% of cyclists who were killed were not wearing a helmet;
- About one-third of all bicycle deaths in 2020 occurred on urban and rural roads;
- The highest number of bicycle deaths in 2020 occurred during the warmer summer months—May, June, July, and August. July produced the highest number of cyclist deaths in single month—84;
- Most cycling fatalities--21%--occur between 6 pm and 9 pm; only 10% occur between 9 am and noon;
- 37% of cycling deaths in 2018 occurred at intersections;
- According to the NHTSA, the death rate for males is about 7 times higher than for females;
- About 37% of all fatal crashes in 2018 involved either the cyclist or the driver of the vehicle consuming alcohol.
There are many ways to stay safe when riding your bicycle, and the State of Missouri is continually improving its trails and creating stricter bicycle-lane regulations to protect cyclists. Based on the statistics cited above, the most obvious things that you can do to be safer when bicycling are to:
- Wear a helmet
- Not consume alcohol when riding
- Be especially careful at intersections
- Ride in the morning hours, when there is less traffic
While the statistics on cycling fatalities are staggering, there are far more bicycle accidents that result in injuries. According to NHTSA, as many as 50,000 bicyclists are injured riding bicycles every year. These injuries range from minor skin abrasions to broken bones and traumatic head injuries. Naturally, the faster you are traveling at the time of the accident, the more likely you are to suffer serious injuries as a result. These more serious injuries often result in litigation, as injured cyclists try to recover financially for their injuries caused by negligent drivers.
What Are the Most Common Bike Accident Injuries?
Although bicycling can be a fun and healthy activity, accidents do occur and serious injuries often result. Most injuries occur to the upper and lower extremities—arms, hands, knees, and feet—the parts of the body that hit the ground first when you fall. Many of these common injuries can be minor and easily treated. However, many injuries—like broken bones and especially head injuries—can be serious and require extensive medical treatment and lengthy recovery periods.
Here are the most common types of bike accident injuries:
If you have ever ridden a bicycle, you probably learned the hard way that falling off a bicycle can result in “road rash” or superficial but painful scrapes, abrasions, and lacerations of the skin. This type of injury results when you fall on paved, concrete, gravel, or even dirt roads. Serious road rash may require immediate medical attention and possibly the removal of debris from the skin. Road rash can be painful and unsightly, but minor road rash is easily treated and does not often result in the need for long-term care.
Fractures or Broken Bones
If you have a serious fall or experience some impact when bicycling, fractured or broken bones can be common. Bone injuries can result from:
- Falling and hitting the ground
- Colliding with stationary objects
- Riding next to parked cars when someone opens the car door
- Impact with a motor vehicle
- Striking a pedestrian
When accidents like these occur, broken bones can be obvious. But fractured, cracked, or dislocated bones are not always immediately apparent and can become more painful over time. These kinds of hidden bone injuries may produce symptoms like:
- Sharp pain
- Restriction in movement
If you are in a bicycle accident and experience any of these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention. Don’t wait hours or days for swelling to go down or pain to subside. An x-ray will reveal any bone damage and will allow you to treat your injuries quickly and correctly.
Of course, when in a bicycle accident, any type of injury is possible. It is not uncommon for injured cyclists to suffer:
- Internal bleeding
- Broken ribs
- Facial fractures
- Pelvic fractures
- Rectal trauma
Any of these injuries can be serious or life-threatening. Even if you do not think you are injured, if you sustain any type of impact in a bicycle accident and experience any kind of symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention to evaluate any injuries.
Head trauma is the most serious injury in a bicycle accident. There are many state and local laws that make wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle mandatory. However, many states limit this requirement to persons under a certain age or anyone riding a motorized scooter, moped, or “e-bike.” An e-bike is an electronically powered bicycle that can increase propulsion and make peddling easier. Despite these laws and the likelihood of head injury resulting from bicycle accidents, many people do not wear a helmet when riding.
Head injuries occur to nearly half of all injured cyclists. Most long-term injuries and disabilities resulting from bike accidents are the result of a head injury. Head injuries cause approximately 60% of all bicycle fatalities.
The most common types of traumatic head injuries from bicycle accidents are:
- Skull fractures
- Cranial hemorrhage
Even if you have been in a minor accident, you could still suffer an internal injury or serious head injury that you are not aware of right away. If your helmet is cracked or scraped in an accident, you should seek medical attention right away, even if you think you are not injured. Signs of a head injury may include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
Serious head injuries can be physically as well as financially disabling. They can require:
- Invasive surgeries
- Extensive hospital stays
- Rehabilitative therapy
- Long-term disability
- Loss of income
- Ongoing pain and suffering
Even minor bicycle accidents can lead to injuries and expenses. Depending on the extent of your injuries, you may be responsible for the cost of:
- Ambulance service
- An initial medical exam
- X-rays, MRIs, CAT-Scans
- A hospital stay
- Follow-up doctor visits
- Rehabilitation or therapy
Trying to pay for these medical expenses while recovering from your injuries can be overwhelming. Your physical recovery can be so demanding that paying medical bills often gets pushed to the side, and this can become even more expensive. Having a good bicycle accident attorney on your side from the very beginning is an important step in your physical and financial recovery.
An Experienced Bicycle Accident Attorney Can Help
If you have sustained injuries in a bicycle accident, you should contact an experienced bicycle accident attorney right away. If someone else was negligent and caused your accident, you have a right to be compensated for any injuries you suffered. This will require negotiating your compensation with insurance companies and possibly litigating your case in court. This can be a long and complicated process. An experienced bicycle accident attorney will assist you with:
- Collecting evidence at the scene of the accident
- Determining who was at fault
- Dealing with insurance companies
- Determining the value of your damages
- Negotiating a fair settlement
- Litigating your case in court if necessary
- Presenting evidence of your injuries
- Obtaining the maximum compensation for your injuries
To obtain the maximum compensation, your attorney will present evidence from the accident and medical evidence of your injuries, including your ongoing pain and suffering. This is difficult evidence to present. If not presented properly, it can cost you money and undermine your entire case. This is a process for which you want only an experienced bike accident attorney, who knows the bike accident laws in your state, has experience negotiating and litigating bike accident cases, and knows what compensation has been awarded in other bike accident cases.
Have You Been Injured in a Bicycle or Pedestrian Accident in Kansas City?
If you've been injured in a Kansas City pedestrian or bicycle accident you should speak with an experienced pedestrian accident attorney. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.249.2101 to schedule your free consultation.