Cyclist road toll pedals uphill

The number of Australians injured or killed in bicycle crashes is on the rise and older people are increasingly being admitted to hospital after cycling mishaps, according a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Pedal cyclist deaths and hospitalisations 1999-00 to 2015-16, shows that over a 17-year period, during which cycling by adults increased, nearly 160,000 cyclists were hospitalised, and the rate of hospitalisations has risen an average of 1.5% each year over this time.

“Within this period, more than 650 cyclists died in cycling crashes, an average of 38 deaths per year,” says Flinders Research Centre for Injury Studies director Professor James Harrison, who led the AIHW investigation.

“Of these, 90% were male, and 90% of fatal incidents occurred on-road.”

A survey conducted by the Australian Sports Commission shows the number of cyclists aged 15 and over rose by 45% between 2001 and 2010, from 1.4 million to 2.1 million.

The age composition of injured cyclists admitted to hospital changed markedly between 1999-00 and 2015-16.

For example, in 1999-00, 48% of people injured in cycling crashes were aged between 5 and 14, compared with 20% in 2015-16.

In contrast, cases among 25-44 year olds rose from 18% to 31%, and cases in the 45-64 age group rose from 7% to 26%.

“Nearly 6 in 10 hospitalised cyclists were injured in an on-road crash,” Professor Harrison says. “Similarly, nearly 6 in 10 sustained a fracture, with the most common injury being a fractured arm.”

Among children aged 5-14, nearly 8 in 10 of the fractures (78%) were of the upper limb. About 1 in 5 of those aged 0-4 sustained head and neck fractures.

“The severity of injuries sustained by cyclists generally increased with age,” Professor Harrison says.

“Those aged 45 and over were more likely to have life-threatening injuries, stay longer in hospital and be transferred to another hospital.”

In severe cases, injured cyclists might need to be put on a ventilator to help them breathe.

“Cyclists aged 45 or older consumed 90% of the total hours of ventilator support, with more than half provided to those aged 45–64,” Professor Harrison says.

In another new AIHW report, Mobility scooter-related deaths and injuries in older Australians 2011–12 to 2015-16, found that 69 people aged 60 and over died from a mobility scooter-related incident in the decade from 2006–07 to 2015–16.

“Almost half of the fatal incidents occurred while the person was crossing a road,”  Professor Harrison says.

More than 4,500 people were admitted to hospital for a possible mobility scooter-related injury between 2011-12 and 2015-16, including 121 cases involving a pedestrian who was injured in a collision with a mobility scooter.

Injury of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people due to transport, 2010-11 to 2014-15‘ has also been supported by the Research Centre for Injury Studies based at Flinders University.

It found the age-standardised rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 2.7 times the rate for non-Indigenous Australians for fatal cases and 1.3 times the rate for non-Indigenous Australians for serious injuries.

The full reports and other information can be found on the AIHW website

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College of Medicine and Public Health