Do Bike-Shares Increase the Risk of Head Injury?

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Bike-Share programs are growing in popularity in Michigan and across the country as a way to increase fitness and decrease traffic. But could those programs be tied to an increase in head injury cases?

A recent NPR blog article shared the findings of American and Canadian researchers that cities with bike-share programs have a higher number of bike-related brain injury cases. Lead researcher, Janessa Graves of the Washington State University’s nursing school said:

“The study basically confirmed our worries. . . Public bike-share initiatives are great wellness initiatives. But without providing helmets, we were concerned that we would see an increase in head injuries. And we did.”

Their report showed a 14% greater risk of bicycle-related head injuries among patients admitted to at trauma centers following the implementation of bike-share programs.

But at least one commentator disagrees with the way the researchers interpreted their findings. Gray Kimbrough of Greater Greater Washington says the data the researchers used actually shows the exact opposite: that bike-related traumatic injuries decreased after the bike-share programs were implemented.

When he examined the data (what he had access to), it showed a 28% decrease in total injuries and a 14% decrease in head injuries per year. This was substantially greater than in control cities (without bike-share programs) where total injuries increased by 2% and head injuries decreased by 4%.

So how can two researchers examine the same data and come to different conclusions? It depends on what the number of injuries was measured against. In the NPR-reported study, the researchers compared head injury among patients admitted to trauma centers for bicycle-related injuries before and after the programs were initiated. But Kimbrough compared total injuries and head injuries, not just those admitted to trauma centers.

It seems undisputed that bike-share programs can be good for citizens health and wellness. Graves and her fellow researchers believe the report shows a need to increase the use of bike helmets. But Kimbrough says the data shows that bike-share programs make bicycling safer over all.

When accidents do happen, particularly when they involve a bicycle and a car, it is important to contact an attorney who specializes in head injuries right away. The bicyclist may be entitled to compensation for his or her injuries. If you or someone you know was injured in a bicycle accident, contact Christensen Law today for a consultation.