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Middle-Aged Men Are Falling Off Bikes and Costing America Money

The latest epidemic is just a little bit funny.

The cliché of something being as easy as riding a bike may need to be revised as the medical costs of non-fatal bicycle crashes skyrockets. According to new research, the total cost of medical bills incurred by those failing to bike properly is currently climbing by $789 million annually. Grown men led the charge–if led is an apt way of describing falling off stuff–accounting for nearly three-quarters fatal and non-fatal bike injuries over a 17-year period.

“We think this is because men cycle more than women,” Thomas Gaither, co-author of the study, told Fatherly. “It is also possible that men do ride more ‘dangerously’ than women although this is an assumption.”

Gaither and his colleagues calculated the costs associated with bike crashes using a combination of non-fatal incidence data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 1997 to 2013, and estimated costs using the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Injury Cost Model. They used fatal incidence data from National Vital Statistics System, as well as a variety of indicators including, hospitals charges, readmissions, rehabilitation, days lost, cost of lost work, lifetime productivity and lost quality of life. They found that the medical costs for adults between 1997 and 2013 topped out at $237 billion, and in 2013 alone bike crashes ran up a bill of over $24.4 billion. In 2013 cyclists 45 and older made up 54 percent of total accident costs, up from 26 percent in 1997, with again, a disproportionate amount being men (still got it).

The team’s past research suggests that the incidence of hospital admissions due to bike crashes has increased by 120 percent. This study “adds the corresponding costs to this rising epidemic,” Gaither says. And it’s not just the financial burden. The new research reveals that bike deaths are rising by 19 cases every year. While it may seem cheaper and safer to take the bus, that’s not the message Gaither is trying to send. It’s important to note as well that these are estimates and with that come limitations. Given that the rising costs correspond with the rising trend of going green, it’s plausible that increase injury costs are due to more adults biking in general.

“Overall, we want to emphasize that the benefits of cycling way outweigh the potential health risks. Many, many people cycle on an everyday basis injury free,“ Gaither notes. Recent research in The BMJ backs this assertion up. After tracking the health of 263,450 commuters for five years, they found the those who biked had a 41 percent lower risk of dying from all causes, compared to those who drove and took public transport.

The moral of the story? Wear a helmet and bring your wallet.