Women Get Hurt Less

A recent study from two universities suggests men are over 50% more likely to be injured while riding a bike than women.

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Two men on bikes, one with a helmet, one without

Photo by Benson Kua

A joint study from the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto recently discovered that of 3,690 annual hospitalizations for bicycle-related injuries in youth and adults, more than three quarters (a startling 76% to be exact) of those injuries were men. Read: Women are significantly less likely to be injured on a bike than men.

The study, published in the weekly medical journal, the BMJ, stated that Women were “50 percent less likely to be injured in to any body region.” That number reached “sixty percent less likely when we were considering head injuries,” according to U of T PhD candidate, Jessica Dennis.

Why do women have an overall lower chance of being injured due to bike riding? The study suggests it is due to the fact that women tend to take fewer risks on the road.

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Dennis commented on this theory, positing that women ride more slowly, choose safer routes, and more frequently choose routes that are designated bike lanes or are completely separated from automobile traffic. “We know that women tend to ride a little more slowly, we know that women choose safer bike routes, they choose routes that have a designated bike lane, or a route that’s separated from traffic,” explained Dennis.

While we know that men and women face similar, if not the same, risks when on bike, Kathleen Tallon ( a Vancouver cyclist), suggested the enormous difference in the percentage of men versus women being injured while riding is due to fewer men wearing helmets. She says that the majority of her female cyclist friends wear helmets.

She also states that as a bike rider she does everything in her power to stay safe – “I got my bell, my lights, my helmet, my eyes out, I keep space away from parked cars and I obey traffic lights.” And she wears a helmet. That is all well and good, however, researchers have not found a correlation between bike helmet legislation and injury rates. This study did find, however, that women cyclists tend to be more cautious than their male counterparts.

Regardless of whether Torontonians or British Columbians or anyone chooses to wear a helmet or not, one thing the study does show is that policies need to be enacted to create more separated bike routes or designated bike lanes. “To provide cyclists the means to cycle more like a woman, ” Dennis states.

If cycling like a woman means cycling safely, we agree. However, men, women, everyone, we just want people to make smart decisions while on their bikes. Enjoy the ride, enjoy the speed, enjoy the freedom.

Meanwhile, we’ll let the study’s recommendation do the rest of the talking: Fund more bicycling infrastructure, which will promote more riders, which will in turn lower the risk of injury. What the study was absolutely clear about? “For every one percent of the proportion of commuters who are actually cyclists, the risk of injuries was reduced by one third,” Dennis says. More people on bikes, fewer people with injuries. Let’s get riding.




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