Wheeled activities involving bicycles, skateboards, in-line skates or scooters can provide hours of fun and exercise, but pursuing these activities safely is the key to reducing injuries. The most severe injuries resulting from wheeled activities involve the head and brain. Even what appear to be minor head injuries may cause permanent brain damage. Other serious injuries include broken bones, facial injuries and serious skin abrasions that may require skin grafts.
Wear a helmet. A properly fitted helmet helps to protect the head by absorbing the force from a crash or a fall, decreasing the risk of serious head injury by as much as 80 per cent.1, 2 This means that four out of five head injuries could be prevented if every cyclist wore a helmet. There is a public perception that helmets may not provide protection in crashes that involve motor vehicles, but helmets have been proven effective in preventing head injury from all types of falls and crashes.1
Keep children under 10 years of age off the road. Riding a bicycle near motor vehicles requires a complex set of skills that children develop gradually between 10 and 14 years of age. They must be able to balance their bike and signal while simultaneously paying attention to vehicles. A child’s brain cannot manage this combination of physical and cognitive skills before 10 years of age, at the earliest. The ability to juggle these tasks around traffic may be further challenged in high-risk situations.
Reduce traffic speeds. Slowing down motor vehicle traffic can significantly increase safety for cyclists sharing the same roads.3 An international review of traffic-calming measures (such as reduced speeds or speed bumps) found that road crashes of all kinds, including those involving child and adult cyclists, declined by 15 per cent overall and 25 per cent on residential streets in particular.4 When 20 cities in the United Kingdom established traffic-calming zones at 40 km/h, child cyclist injuries declined by 48 per cent.5
1 Thompson DC, Rivara F, Thompson R. Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in bicyclists. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009(1).
2 Attewell RG, Glase K, McFadden M. Bicycle helmet efficacy: a meta-analysis. Accid Anal Prev 2001;33(3):345-52.
3 World Health Organization. World report on road traffic injury prevention. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2004.
4 Elvik R. Area-wide urban traffic calming schemes: a meta-analysis of safety effects. Accid Anal Prev 2001;33(3):327-36.
5 Webster D, Mackie A. Review of traffic calming schemes in 20 mph zones. Crowthorne: TRL Limited; 1996. (TRL Report 215).