Swedes Conclude: Girls' Bikes Safer for Street and Older Folks' Riding Joy

Girls Bikes Safer to Older Riders photo

Some girl racers' bikes suffer from safety-impaired 'boy bar' design. Photo via faster panda kill kill @ flickr.

Leave it to the research-crazy Swedes to do a careful 10-year review study on the cycling habits (and accidents) of seniors. No joke!

Ulf Björnstig at Umeå University examined records from 1997 - 2006 and found injury accidents for bicycling seniors are a huge cost to state-run health systems - half of cycle-related deaths are among people 65 and up - and injured cyclists of all ages cost more (and stay in the hospital longer) than any other category of traffic-related injured (though motorcyclists die more often). Today's bikes have multiple problems for all riders, and in particular seniors, Björnstig said, both in safety and in comfort. What's the biggest problem and the cause of nearly half of bike accidents to the older riders?

Boy bar is dangerous, especially for older riders.
It's the 'boy bar' that all 'male' bikes use, and that are particularly important in racing bikes to maintain the stability of the bike. But when you are riding to the grocery store and back, a bike without the ball-crushing bar is much safer, Björnstig concluded, because the majority of accidents involve sudden stops and the necessity of quickly getting off and back on the bike. Seat heights that prohibit quick mount and dismount of the cycle are also a problem. Björnstig said cycle design must evolve and take these concerns into account - possibilities include low clearing heights and/or recumbent frame models.

Fifty percent more cyclists in the last decade.
In Sweden, cycling to work used to be a clear sign that the cyclist was a blue-collar worker. That's all changed. In the last decade the number of cyclists on the streets of Stockholm has increased by 50 percent, and the the bulk of the increase has come from highly educated, middle class cyclists - a cool bike is now considered a status symbol.

With the increase of course have come more accidents, which the Swedes have duly measured. They've also measured regular car trips and found that the majority of them are less than five kilometers, making a larger shift to bike riding well within the realm of the possible and the desirable. Yet in Sweden, as in the U.S., investment in roads is more than 100 times annually what is put into better bicycle lanes and safety measures. Via: Ecoprofile
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