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Open Access Research article

Injuries to pedal cyclists on New Zealand roads, 1988-2007

Sandar Tin Tin1*, Alistair Woodward2 and Shanthi Ameratunga1

Author Affiliations

1 Section of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

2 School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:655  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-655

Published: 30 October 2010

Abstract

Background

The risk of injury is one of the major barriers to engaging in cycling. We investigated exposure-based rates and profiles of traffic injuries sustained by pedal cyclists that resulted in death or hospital inpatient treatment in New Zealand, one of the most car dependent countries.

Methods

Pedal cyclist traffic injuries were identified from the Mortality Collection and the National Minimum Dataset. Total time spent cycling was used as the measure of exposure and computed from National Household Travel Surveys. Analyses were undertaken for the periods 1988-91, 1996-99 and 2003-07 in relation to other major road users and by age, gender and body region affected. A modified Barell matrix was used to characterise the profiles of pedal cyclist injuries by body region affected and nature of injury.

Results

Cyclists had the second highest rate of traffic injuries compared to other major road user categories and the rate increased from 1996-99 to 2003-07. During 2003-07, 31 injuries occurred per million hours spent cycling. Non-collision crashes (40%) and collisions with a car, pick-up truck or van (26%) accounted for two thirds of the cycling injuries. Children and adolescents aged under 15 years were at the highest risk, particularly of non-collision crashes. The rate of traumatic brain injuries fell from 1988-91 to 1996-99; however, injuries to other body parts increased steadily. Traumatic brain injuries were most common in collision cases whereas upper extremity fractures were most common in other crashes.

Conclusions

The burden of fatal and hospitalised injuries among pedal cyclists is considerable and has been increasing over the last decade. This underscores the development of road safety and injury prevention programmes for cyclists alongside the cycling promotion strategies.