Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Kid-Bike Crisis

There was an attention-grabbing headline on the Fox News website this morning:

Children and Bikes: $200 Million National Health Crisis, Researchers Say

Yep. 10,700 kids are hospitalized every year for bicycle-related injuries, with an average 3-day stay.

(Article HERE.)

The Center for Injury Research and Policy (?) apparently classifies bicycling as a "recreational sport." (Kinda like the vast majority of the citizenry, huh?) And they are concerned about so many "recreational sports injuries."

(Barely mentioned is the observation that "bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except the automobile.")

Other tidbits:
- Motor vehicles were involved in approximately 30% of bike-related hospitalizations. (That's lower than I would've guessed.)
- One-third of bike-related kid hospitalizations were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. (And they estimated 85% of those injuries would be prevented through helmet usage.)

Some folks will see this, and conclude that we need to get kids off those dangerous bicycles!

Some will probably advocate air bags or seat belts for bicycles. (Go ahead and laugh. But did you know that the 2007 Honda Gold Wing motorcycle has an air bag? It's just a matter of time 'til it trickles down. Yeah, I was just funnin' about the seat belt.)

Some will want to mandate bicycle helmet usage.

I've got mixed feelings about that. Like I do about motorcycle helmets. I'm a staunch advocate of helmet-wearing, and NEVER ride my bicycle or motorcycle without one. But it's rather depressing to think people are so stupid they won't wear one unless it's mandated. And if a brain is so defective that it won't voluntarily protect itself... do we want to mandate protecting it?

(Of course, it's a bit different with kids. You expect (hope?) that adults will have good judgment. But sometimes kids have to be compelled to do something "because I said so." I believe some of our neighboring states mandate bike-helmet usage for riders under 18; perhaps that would be a reasonable compromise. "Because Butch said so.")

The best possible outcome - if this report changes anything - is that there would be an increased awareness that kids need some type of formal training in safe bicycling... from an instructor who knows the material. When you see unhelmeted adults riding down the street at dusk, without a light, against traffic, no hands on the bars, and with their iPod earplugs firmly implanted... you can't expect them to be very good safe-cycling teachers. But that's all a lot of kids have got.

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