Bicycles: Good for Your Health…as Long as You Wear a Helmet

Portland has frequently been named as the most bicycle friendly city in America, and the number of people using two non-motorized wheels to get around town is increasing every year. The benefits in terms of health, a positive impact on the environment and a reduction in the impact of skyrocketing gasoline prices are not to be underestimated.

Of course, the increase in the number of bicycles on the road has also led to a corresponding rise in the number of bicycle-related injuries. A recent study revealed some interesting links between bicyclist’s behavior and the types of injuries they suffer in road accidents.

The report was issued by Doctors Health Press, an organization that frequently publishes natural health newsletters, reports and books. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the health benefits to cyclists were numerous. The study showed that regularly riding a bicycle:

  • Is an effective way to stave off illnesses like diabetes and heart disease
  • Gives cyclists an excellent cardiovascular workout
  • Protects joints, tendons and muscles, particularly those in older people, from the pounding and stress they take doing more traditional exercises like running, jogging, playing tennis, basketball and other high-impact sports

Helmets Have to be used Correctly to Be Effective

The report also threw out some interesting facts regarding the relationship and prevalence of correct helmet use by bicyclists as related to factors including the cyclist’s age, gender, riding location and even who they were riding with and the average neighborhood family income.

One thing the experts all agreed on, of course, was that wearing a bicycle helmet is crucial to keeping down levels of serious injuries and deaths among cyclists. However, one surprising finding of the Doctors Health Press study was that the way the helmet is worn is nearly as important as the actual wearing of the helmet itself. In this area, the majority of cyclists across all user groups were found badly wanting.

In the area of correct helmet use, the study results showed that:

  • Of all cyclists observed during the study, 60 percent were wearing an approved bicycle helmet, meaning four out of 10 wore no helmet.
  • A total of 15.3 percent of those cyclists who were wearing a helmet were either wearing those helmets incorrectly or they were using a non-bicycle helmet.
  • Adults are nearly as bad as the kids about wearing helmets too far back on their heads. The study showed that 53 percent of children tend to wear their helmet too far back, but so do 51 percent of adults.
  • Adolescents that wear helmets have a dangerous tendency to not fasten the straps, rendering that piece of protective gear virtually useless in the event of a collision or fall from the bike.
  • When all factors are taken into consideration, 76 percent of adult cyclists either don’t wear a helmet or wear one incorrectly.

Helmets: The Best Way to Protect Yourself

The most obvious question the experts ask is, “Why would any person using a bicycle take the risk? Why wouldn’t they wear an appropriate and approved helmet every single time they venture out on a bicycle?

The question takes on greater relevance when the statistics relating to a rider’s improved chances of surviving a bicycle accident by wearing a proper helmet are taken into account. The final portion of the study took a look at some of the benefits of wearing bicycle helmets and the reasons some people choose not to. The findings showed that:

  • Properly worn helmets significantly lower the risk of head and brain injuries in accidents involving bicycles.
  • In addition, are a cyclist’s best ally in warding off:
  • Concussions and fractured skulls
  • A variety of neck injuries
  • Fractures and other injuries to the face and jaws
  • When it comes to not wearing a helmet, alcohol is doubly dangerous. Not only do cyclists under the influence of alcohol more frequently make the decision not to wear a helmet, but the alcohol also promotes risky behavior that can lead to serious injuries or worse.
  • Finally, the study revealed that incorrect helmet use leads to the injuries sustained being more severe and far more likely than if the helmet is being used as intended.

Wearing a helmet when out and about in Portland on your bicycle is not just a good idea, it’s essential to improving your chances of surviving an accident. This study also shows that wearing the helmet properly is actually equally as important as having the helmet on your head.

As Portland has so many thousands of bicycles on its roads every day, the city also sees its fair share of collisions between bicycles and other vehicles. Often, cyclists are seriously injured in accidents that aren’t their fault, and the problem is, in any accident between a cyclist and a motorized vehicle, the cyclist always loses, no matter whose fault the accident was.

If you were injured in a cycling accident that wasn’t your fault, you may have grounds to make a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver or even against the city if your accident was caused by an unsafe bicycle lane or intersection. Strict time limits apply in such cases, so if you are in any doubt as to your rights under Oregon law, contact an experienced Portland bicycle accident attorney for a free consultation. They can answer your questions and explain the best way to recover your medical expenses, lost income and to get compensation for your pain and suffering.