By Laura Herperger
With the snow melting, more bicycle tires will be hitting Calgary’s pavement. But for Jackie Williamson, biking is not just a rite of spring. She sees biking as a major cause of injury in hospital emergency rooms.
The University of Calgary health sciences student is just completing a bike study, looking at children admitted to emergency rooms in Edmonton and Calgary from 2008 to 2010. The study examined data on what caused the greatest injury to bikers.
The study found that the greatest injuries were caused by cyclists crashing into vehicles; the faster the vehicle, the greater the injury. The study also found that the lack of helmet use while biking was not as great a risk factor as were collisions.
A total of 1,470 children were seen in emergency rooms in the two cities during the study period. Many of those children remained in hospital with fractures and lacerations to the upper limbs, head and torso.
Williamson points out that until now, researchers have been focused on helmet protection for children. “Maybe we need more designated bike lanes separated from the roads to ensure safety,” she says.
“We’re now identifying that where you bike is important, and perhaps for more than just one segment of the population. Maybe this is something worthwhile bringing to light for policymakers,” she says.
Williamson’s research is supported by a Transport Canada study which concluded that mass helmet use has not contributed to a reduction in cyclist fatalities in Canada, which remains at about 60 deaths a year. The work is timely as the city of Calgary explores segregated bike lanes in the downtown to encourage cycling.
The University of Calgary study is being led by Dr. Brent Hagel, the co-chair of the healthy living and optimizing health outcomes theme group at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.
The research was funded by the Markin Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP) and is part of the ongoing Cycling Injury Risk Factor Study (CIRF).
“We want children and adolescents to be more physically active and engage in activities like bicycling for both recreation and transportation,” says Hagel. “However, we know that bicycling injuries are a significant cause of child and adolescent injuries and this research will identify tangible ways we can make the activity safer.”
Williamson’s findings and that of the other CIRF team are being submitted for publication.
Williamson will be presenting her research to the Child Health Research Rounds at the Alberta Children’s Hospital on Tuesday, March 5 at 12:30 – 1:30 in conference room #2.