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The Dangers and Benefits of Bicycling

The Dangers and Benefits of Bicycling

In the 1979 movie Breaking Away, a determined 19-year-old “townie” competes against snotty college kids in a bike race and wins—despite a bad crash—by having his feet taped to his pedals! If that seems extreme, consider this: A new study in the journal Injury Prevention reported an astounding 3.8 million non-fatal adult bicycle injuries and about 9,800 deaths over 17 years from 1997 to 2013. That racked up $237 billion in medical costs; in 2013 alone the price tag was over $24.4 billion.

What’s fueling this bumpy bike ride? An enormous increase in the number of folks on bikes—especially among the 45-and-older crowd. Around 66 million Americans got on a bike last year. When that’s combined with a lack of good bike-riding infrastructure, you’ve got a formula for lots of injuries.

The health benefits of cycling are many: Good aerobic conditioning with minimal impact on joints, increased cardiovascular fitness, more muscle strength, increased flexibility, improved posture, bone strength and coordination, less body fat and reduced stress and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety (if you ride safely).

So, to take advantage of the benefits—and avoid becoming part of the statistics on the hazards—be sure to:

  1. Wear a helmet, and never use earbuds.
  2. Observe traffic laws; assume cars may not.
  3. Ride in bike lanes or on the safest roadways.
  4. Wear hi-vis clothing; use flashing head and taillights 24/7.
  5. And never ever text and pedal (we see it all the time)! That can take you from Breaking Away to Breaking Bad!

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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