A new study by UC San Francisco researchers breaks down the costs of bicycle injuries to adults in the United States, noting that medical costs from non-fatal crashes have climbed steadily by $789 million annually.

Over a 17-year period, medical costs of bicycle injuries to adults in the United States, both fatal and non-fatal, amounted to $237 billion, according to the study, published recently in Injury Prevention.

In 2013 alone, total costs from bicycle accidents exceeded $24.4 billion, the researchers reported. That is approximately double the medical and other various costs involved for all occupational illnesses over the same time period.

There were 3.8 million non-fatal adult bicycle injuries and nearly 9,839 deaths that were reported during the study period from 1997 to 2013. Men accounted for three-quarters of the total costs, per a media release from University of California – San Francisco.

“The costs of bicycle injuries have risen steadily since 1997, with a significant increase in emergency department visits and hospital admissions, especially with older men,” says first author Thomas W. Gaither, a UCSF medical student, in the release.

“In the past, many bicycle accidents stemmed from non-street incidents. But now, street crashes with motor vehicles represent a greater proportion of the total costs. These crashes, which primarily occur with motor vehicles, increase the velocity of the crash impact and, as a result, the severity of the injury,” he adds.

In the study, researchers analyzed non-fatal incidence data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System with cost estimates from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Injury Cost Model, and 1999-2013 fatal incidence data from the National Vital Statistics System. The research excluded mopeds and cycles that do not have two wheels.

The investigators calculated costs from a variety of factors, including hospital charges, readmissions, rehabilitation, nursing home stays, emergency transport, visits to the emergency department, days lost, cost of lost work, lifetime productivity lost and lost quality of life, the release continues.

Among the study’s key findings, the toll for bicycle injuries during the study period was $209 billion for non-fatal accidents and $28 billion for fatal injuries; annual costs over the study period increased by 137% for non-fatal injuries and 23% for fatal injuries; and there were approximately 6,500 more adult cycling injuries annually.

In addition, per the study, medical costs increased by 137% for non-fatal bike crashes; bicycling deaths increased by an average of 19 cases a year; and older riders accounted for a great proportion of total costs through time and a larger share of inpatient admission costs.

In 2013, nearly 54% of the total costs of bicycle accidents were due to riders 45 and older, up from 26% in 1997, the researchers reported.

Along with the fact that older adults are biking more and being more severely hurt, the rising severity of injuries may be due to changes in motor vehicle traffic, more commuting by bicycle and changes in vehicle design, reported the researchers, the release continues.

“While the health benefits of cycling far outweigh the health risks, our results demonstrate the scope of the financial impact of cycling injuries,” states senior author Benjamin N. Breyer, MD, a UCSF Health urologist, in the release. “To me, it clearly makes a strong case for investment in safer cycling infrastructure.

“Many of these injuries are preventable with safer roads,” adds Breyer, an associate professor of urology at UCSF and chief of urology at UCSF partner hospital Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.

“We can learn lessons from the cycling environment in some European cities, where they have more riders and fewer accidents per rider. As our cities become more dense and we look for ways to promote active commuting to benefit health and environment, we need to invest long term into our bicycling infrastructure,” he concludes.

[Source(s): University of California – San Francisco, Science Daily]