Bicycle-related injuries and hospital treatments have declined in Minnesota — despite an increase in ridership and bike commuting to school and work — but state and local health officials aren’t resting on the progress.
The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota over the past three years has provided “Walk! Bike! Fun!” training to teach children statewide to stay safe on the streets, and to teach parents and educators about how to promote bicycle safety. On Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health sponsored the first adaptive version of the training to promote bike riding for children with disabilities.
The effort comes amid some safety advances. Hospital treatments for bicycle injuries dropped from 6,232 in 2010 to 4,875 in 2016, said the Minnesota Injury Data Access System. Injury rates remain highest for children, but the number of treatments for riders 24 and younger has declined since 2010. Meanwhile, the number and rate of hospital-treated injuries has increased for riders 55 and older.
The state data match outcomes in a new national study by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. While injuries are declining, the researchers found that 25 children per hour have been treated in U.S. emergency rooms for bike-related injuries since 2006.
Helmets tended to prevent more severe injuries, said Lara McKenzie, who led the research. “Once they have a fitted helmet, parents should also make sure their kids have the proper education before they pedal away, especially if they are going to be riding in the street. Injuries involving motor vehicles more than doubled the odds of a traumatic brain injury and more than quadrupled the odds of hospitalization.”
State health officials said they viewed this week’s training as a means to promote safety, but also to increase comfort with bike riding. Studies have shown that children who walk or bike to school have improved mental health and lower odds of obesity.