Report: Bicycle injuries on the rise in California and across the country

As more vehicles and cyclists are on the road, there has been a sharp rise in injuries, especially among older adults on bicycles.

A recent report from the University of California, San Francisco, has found that injuries among older Americans on bikes have risen over the last 15 years. According to a report from CBS News, researchers took a look at the rate of injuries among adults 45 and older, which spiked 81 percent between 1998 and 2013.

Part of the problem, experts say, is that motorists lack the proper education regarding how to share the road with cyclists. California has very specific laws in place to protect cyclists and give them legal rights following an accident.

By the numbers

The UCSF study found that across all adults in the country, bicycle injuries are on the rise. The number of people admitted to the hospital for such injuries increased by 120 percent over the timeframe studied, and head trauma increased by 16 percent.

The CBS article also cites a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That study found that bicyclist fatalities among people ages 35 to 74 jumped between 1975 and 2012. In fact, the rate nearly tripled over that timeframe.

Why it happens

Increasingly, adults are using bicycles as a mode of transportation. Bikes provide a more economical way of commuting to work for many people. Researchers pointed out that as more vehicles and cyclists are on the road, there is a greater likelihood that an accident will occur. One study's author proposed the following solutions:

  • Educate cyclists and motorists on how to share the road
  • Create more bike lanes
  • New streets should be designed with both vehicles and bicycles in mind

The author noted that when motorists and cyclists get used to sharing the road with each other, there is a chance that the injury rates will start to decline.

California's laws

According to California's Three Feet for Safety Act, motorists must provide cyclists with a 3-foot buffer zone when passing. Violating the act could result in a driver getting fined $35, jumping to $220 if the violation leads to a collision.

There are a number of laws cyclists must obey as well, such as riding with traffic. The California Department of Motor Vehicles points out that bicyclists younger than 18 are required to wear a helmet while riding. Further, the use of reflectors and lights at night is mandatory.

The DMV also warns drivers to only attempt to pass a bicyclist when it is safe to do so. A cyclist should never be squeezed off the road. Motorists must take into account road and weather conditions when cyclists are nearby.