The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has reported that hospitalizations related to cycling injuries increased by 25% during the first year of COVID-19 in Canada. CIHI, a non-profit organization that tracks hospitalizations and emergency room visits in Canada, found the trend occurred across nearly all genders, age groups, and jurisdictions (except Saskatchewan).
CIHI’s research found that while the overall number of injury hospitalizations dropped across Canada between April 2020 and March 2021, cycling-related admissions increased by more than 1,000. Alberta alone saw a 37% spike in cycling injury hospitalizations, for a total of 813 cases. This number represented 15% of the nationwide total. (Note that the data relates only to the number of visits and hospitalizations and does not account for patients transferred between facilities or readmitted.)
Jump in bike sales, temporary biking infrastructure during lockdowns
CIHI’s manager of clinical administrative databases operations, Tanya Khan, speculated that pandemic-related public health measures may have caused the surge in cycling between April 2020 and March 2021.
While most recreational facilities were shut down to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many Canadian bike shops saw a marked increase in bicycle sales. Cities across the country implemented temporary infrastructure, including bike lanes, to support those who turned to biking to spend time outside during the pandemic. In 2021, CAA polling showed that 30% of Canadians who cycle at least occasionally have increased their cycling since COVID-19 began.
Giri Srinivasan, a physiotherapist, based in Edmonton, told the CBC that he still sees many cycling-related injuries coming into his clinic, including neck, shoulder, back, thumb and knee problems. He believes the pandemic’s novice cyclists are becoming “more adventurous” and are trying more risky forms of cycling such as mountain biking.
Collisions cause many cycling injuries with other vehicles
Another Edmonton physiotherapist, Steven Cindric, believed driver behaviour to be a significant factor in the rise of cycling injuries, noting that vehicles may not be observing or watching bicyclists.
According to the City of Edmonton, almost 70% of the 140 cyclists injured or killed in a collision last year were hit by other drivers. The City states that the cyclists usually followed the road rules and had the right of way. Steven Cindric pointed to the lower number of protected bike lanes in Alberta compared to other provinces as a contributing factor.
In 2021, CAA compiled the following statistics for cycling in Canada:
- An average of 74 Canadians die in cycling collisions each year. 73% of those deaths involved a collision with a motor vehicle.
- Road safety rules may not have been respected in approximately 1 in 3 cycling fatalities.
- Most cycling injuries and deaths occur between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. (i.e. during rush hour and as it gets dark outside).
- Areas where cycling is more prevalent tend to have lower rates of bicycle-related collisions and fatalities.
Bicyclists at risk for serious injury in an accident
Given their exposed state, bicyclists are highly vulnerable to serious or catastrophic injuries (or death) in a motor vehicle accident. Cyclists who are involved in a collision with another vehicle (for example, a car, truck, motorcycle, taxi, or bus) may experience a broad range of injuries, including:
- Orthopaedic injuries, including trauma to the bones, joints, ligaments, cartilage, tendons, or muscles;
- Neck and back trauma, including whiplash;
- Facial injuries;
- Road rash;
- Cuts and bruises;
- Internal injuries;
- Spinal cord damage, which may lead to paraplegia or quadriplegia;
- Amputations; and
- Traumatic brain injuries.
If you are involved in a cycling accident, it is vital that you seek medical attention as soon as possible. Some injuries may not be readily apparent in the aftermath of the accident and can take time to materialize. Similarly, injuries that may appear to be relatively minor may be far more severe than initially thought.
How to safely share the road
CAA states that drivers and cyclists must learn to share the road to keep everyone safe.
Tips for Motorists
CAA sets out the following tips for motorists on sharing the road safely with cyclists;
- Leave at least one metre of space between your vehicle and cyclists;
- Be predictable by using your turn signals to indicate your intentions;
- Always obey traffic signals and signs;
- Check your mirrors and blind spots before turning, changing lanes, passing, or merging; and
- Don’t throw your door open into traffic when parking on the street. Instead, check your blind spot by doing the “Dutch Reach”:
- Reach across your body with your hand furthest from the door;
- Check your mirrors and do a shoulder check to look for cyclists;
- Slowly open the door and, when safe, exit the vehicle.
Tips for Cyclists
CAA recommends that cyclists “be seen, be heard, and be ready”:
- Be seen by:
- Wearing lightly-toned or brightly-coloured clothing;
- Using reflectors and reflective tape on your helmet, clothes, and bicycle; and
- Equipping your bike with a headlight and taillight for night riding.
- Be heard by equipping your bike with a bell or horn to signal pedestrians and drivers and to pass other bikes safely.
- Be ready by:
- Wearing running or cycling shoes while riding;
- Avoiding loose-fitting pants that can get tangled in your bike chain; and
- Equipping your bike with a cage and water bottle that can be easily and safely accessible.
Contact Cuming & Gillespie LLP in Calgary for Award-Winning Personal Injury Services
The experienced personal injury lawyers of Cuming & Gillespie LLP understand that bicycle and motor vehicle accidents can cause life-changing injuries that impact a cyclist’s physical, psychological and financial well-being. We help cyclists throughout Alberta who have been in a collision with a car recover damages from the responsible driver or insurance companies. Our team prepares all medical and other documents needed to substantiate your claim and position your case for success. If you have been injured in a bicycle and motor vehicle accident, call us at 403-571-0555 (toll-free at 1-800-682-2480) or reach out online.