Middle Age And Cycling

Few things are the same at 65 that they are at 20. A lack of rest. Push-ups. Imbibing.

Cycling is no different. Although the health benefits of the activity for those of all ages are undeniable, so too is the fact that older riders have a tougher time recovering from bicycle accidents. An accident from which a 20-year-old might walk away unscathed could cause significant injury to someone four decades older.

It’s not that youths are invincible, though they sometimes believe that. Rather, it’s that cells have a more difficult time regenerating as we age. There is also a marked decrease in blood flow to the brain, which is associated with decreased reaction time. Loss of bone mass and decreased flexibility means a predisposition to bone fractures.

At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman's BikeAttorney.com, our Boston bicycle accident lawyers know well the unique challenges older cyclists face after an accident. Recovery time is often significant. Medical bills are substantial. Health effects can be long-lasting.

A recent study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicates not only are more adult riders suffering bicycle injuries, but an increasing number of them are over the age of 45. Of data collected from 100 hospital emergency rooms from 1998-1999 and 2012-2013, researchers discovered:

  • Bike injuries per 100,000 adults shot up from 96 to 123 – an uptick of 28 percent.
  • The most commonly-injured areas were the arms and legs. The most increasingly-injured part was the head.
  • Hospitalizations for bike injuries climbed from 5.1 per 100,000 adults to 11.2, a 120 percent increase.
  • The percentage of those injuries for people over the age of 45 shot up from 23 percent to 42 percent.
  • Hospitalizations among the over-45 cohort jumped from 39 percent to 65 percent.

In cases where those accidents were the result of carelessness or recklessness of someone else, there may be grounds for compensation. Often, named defendants are motor vehicle drivers and/or their employers. It’s also worth exploring whether defective or dangerous road design or maintenance may have played a role. In those situations, local or state governments or contractors may be named as defendants.

Biking: No Longer Kids’ Play

For a long time, it seemed cycling was seen solely as a sport and/ or recreation for children.

But starting in the 1990s, there was a significant cultural shift that involved increased bicycling in urban commuting and popularity of recreational cycling, particularly among older people. Part of it has to do with the fact that cycling is low-impact. It has great cardiovascular benefits and those involved have a supportive and active community of those who are passionate about it.

According to the Massachusetts Travel Survey, nearly 60 percent of all residents in Boston own one or more bicycles. And the National Household Travel Survey revealed the biggest majority of increase in bicycling activity between 1995 and 2009 involved Americans older than 25 – with the biggest increase involving the oldest groups.

So when we think back to the time when Bill Clinton was president, spotting a bicyclist over the age of 55 was extremely rare. To see one over the age of 75 was one of those things that simply never happened. Today, this is not the case.

While we know younger generations favor city life and have a greater tendency to shun car ownership. But it’s the older generation that is really fueling the increase. That national survey showed that the increase in cyclists between the ages of 60 and 70 accounted for 37 percent of the total number of national bicycle trips. In fact, ridership among this group shot up to more than 320 percent from 1995 to 2009. For riders between the ages of 40 to 59, ridership is up 160 percent. For riders 18 to 39, ridership is up about 50 percent.

Older Cyclists Face Unique Risks

The overall improvement to one’s general well-being are substantial, so the news that a growing number of older cyclists are getting involved is fantastic. There are risks, as with any activity, but those risks are more pronounced for older riders.

When it came to bicycle collisions reported to police, the Boston Bicycle Safety Report indicated about 15 percent involved cyclists over the age of 45.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that while the death rate among child cyclists has fallen dramatically over the last 40 years, the rate of fatality for cyclists between the ages of 35 and 54 has tripled.

In the JAMA study, researchers learned hospital admissions due to bicycle injuries had more than doubled from 1998 to 2013. Hospitalizations among those riders 45 years and older increased by 66 percent.

Head injuries are an especially worrisome problem. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons reports cycling accidents involved approximately 86,000 of the 447,000 sports-related head injuries in a given year.

Given these figures, it’s imperative for older cyclists to take precautions. That means:

  • Wearing a helmet
  • Don bright, reflective clothing
  • Make sure the bicycle is affixed with headlights, rear lights and reflectors
  • Map out your route before you leave

If you do suffer injury as a result of a bicycle accident, it’s in your best interest to contact an injury lawyer as soon as possible to determine whether you may have grounds for a claim.

Contact the Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyers at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman's BikeAttorney.com.