Increased risk of head injuries among cyclists may be linked to bike-sharing programmes

US researchers found head injuries made up a bigger proportion of bicycle-related injuries in cities with sharing schemes

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The Independent Online

A rise in brain injuries among cyclists could be linked to bike-sharing programmes, according to a new study.

The report, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that the risk that a bicycle injury would involve a head injury increased by 14 per cent following the introduction of the schemes.

Researchers from the University of Washington and Washington State University looked at trauma centre data for bicycle-related injuries from five cities that have bike-sharing programmes and five cities that don’t.

They compared the number of bicycle-related injuries in the two years before the programmes were introduced, with the number sustained in the year following their implementation.

Of all bicycle-related injuries that occurred in the cities where bike-share programmes were introduced, the proportion that were head injuries rose from 42 per cent to 50 per cent during the study period. In the other cities, the figure decreased from 38 per cent to 36 per cent.

But the study also found that, overall, injuries for cyclists in the cities with bike-share programmes went down by 28 per cent – and head injuries decreased by 14 per cent.

Study leaser Janessa Graves, assistant professor at the Washington State University College of Nursing, said: “Our results suggest that bike-share programmes should place greater importance on providing helmets so riders can reap the health benefits of cycling without putting themselves at greater risk for injury.”

The cities with bike-share programmes were Boston, Miami Beach, Minneapolis, Washington DC, and Montreal - none of the cities provided helmets. The cities without bike-share programs were Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, Seattle and Vancouver.

Speaking about the findings, Doctor Michael Lewis of the Brain Health Education and Research Institute told Fox5: “The benefits of bike-sharing programmes are far bigger than the potential risks are.

“We could be doing much more in our cities – we could introduce better bike lanes and things like that.

"But there is a lot of responsibility that needs to be put on the individual rider; people really should wear a helmet.”