Avoid Common Cycling Injuries

Cycling is a sport or hobby that is growing in popularity throughout South Florida’s roadways. Unfortunately, serious injuries and fatalities among cyclists are also on the rise.

It can be a dangerous combination: Distracted or inattentive motorists sharing busy roads with cyclists, sometimes groups of them on long rides.

Cycling safety is the responsibility of both riders and motorists, Florida law states.

But caution often goes out the window as motorists, distracted by smartphones or not fully alert, collide with cyclists. The result can be fatal even if the rider is wearing the proper helmet and following the rules of the road.

” If you’re thinking, ‘Everyone is trying to run me over,’ you’re going to be more alert on your bicycle,” said Otto Vega, M.D., chief of Emergency Medicine at Homestead Hospital. “There are many common-sense things you can do to avoid injury as a cyclist.”

Cycle for Safety
Tomorrow, Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra will lead the HEAT Cycle for Safety event, a four-mile leisurely ride in downtown Miami to promote bicycle safety and cooperation between drivers and cyclists.

“Whether driving, walking or cycling, South Florida roadways belong to us all,” said Spoelstra. “This event is a fun and relaxing way to encourage everyone to share the road and to do so in ways that are safe and smart.”

The number of cyclists killed by distracted drivers increased 30 percent, from 56 in 2005 to 73 in 2010, according to a study which was published in the November-December issue of the journal Public Health Reports. Men between the ages of 25 and 64 accounted for 83 percent of the cyclist victims, according to the study.

“If a cyclist is hit by a car, he or she needs to be rushed to the E.R. as soon as possible,” said Dr. Vega. “The impact can often result in perforated lungs or broken ribs, which may not be obvious at first.”

Common Injuries
Perforated or punctured lungs are often diagnosed in the E.R., when the rider experiences shortness of breath after an injury, he said. Typically, when the lung is punctured, it leads to a collection of air between the lung tissue and chest cavity. The condition can be life-threatening and needs rapid assessment and treatment.

“If you suffer perforated lungs and get to hospital fast enough, your chances of recovery are pretty good,” Dr. Vega said.

Other common cycling injuries are arm and leg fractures and broken ribs. The most serious injuries are head traumas when cyclists are hit by moving vehicles, he said.

“Bicycle helmets are very light and were not designed as protection against getting hit by a car,” said Dr. Vega. ” Most deaths occur when there are severe injuries to the head.”

Cyclists should, Dr. Vega says, take as many precautions as possible to prevent injuries:

  • Wear helmets at all times (a bicycle rider or passenger under 16 years of age must wear a bicycle helmet by Florida law).
  • Avoid riding after dark.
  • Make sure you have lights or reflectors  if you do ride at night.
  • Ensure that your bicycle has properly inflated tires and working brakes.

Additionally, families with younger children should ride in parks or clearly-marked bike paths – and away from busy roadways, he said.

Legal Status of Cyclists on Roadways
Many motorists may not think so, but cyclists have the legal right to share the road. However, cyclists on public roads must follow the traffic rules common to all motor vehicle drivers. And they must also follow rules adopted specially for bicycles.

A cyclist must:

  • Ride on the right side of the road.
  • Obey all applicable traffic control devices (signs, markings, and traffic signals).
  • Stop at marked stop lines before proceeding into an intersection when a stop sign is present and yield to a pedestrian crossing in the crosswalk (whether marked or unmarked).
  • Yield to pedestrians or other vehicles before entering an intersection where a yield sign is present.

Dr. Vega says that motorists must take extra caution as more cyclists take to the road in South Florida and as technology is evolving in vehicles, creating greater distractions.

“Motorists need to be aware that when driving, your vision must be focused straight ahead and around you at all times,” he said. “If you are distracted by talking on the phone or looking down, then you’re not aware of cyclists or pedestrians – and that’s all it takes for a tragedy to occur.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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