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Enjoy The Benefits of Exercise But Stay Safe

A couple of days ago, fellow blogger Tony posted this: Most forms of exercise are overwhelmingly safe – but don’t ignore the dangers. Thanks, Tony. It is based on an interesting study recently published in the journal Injury Prevention [1]. By analyzing accident statistics in England and Wales in the period 2012-2017, they came up with injury rates for various exercise-related activities. Cycling had an injury rate of 2.8 per 100,000 outings, while walking had 0.03 per 100,000, and fitness activities (e.g. gym participation) had 0.21 per 100,000. All of these are relatively low, I’m only likely to get injured about once every 33,000 rides, and it can be argued that the health benefits of the activity outweigh the injury risk. But note that cycling had 100 times the injury rate of walking. So it makes sense to do whatever possible to minimize the risks. This is especially true in my case, as in the few years I’ve been writing this log, I’ve accrued the exercise benefits of many hours of activity. But I’ve also: broken a collarbone in a bike crash, ripped my rotator cuff in a hiking fall, and had to go to the hospital for a head trauma (thankfully not too severe).

For cycling, here are some obvious safety measures:

Accident risk higher at night than during the day, so if possible avoid riding at night, otherwise have good lighting and bright reflective clothing.

Accident risk is higher at busy roads on rush hour. Riding at these times may be unavoidable for bike commuting, but it helps to find alternate routes on quieter roads. Back in the late 1970s I was commuting from Mountain View Ca to Palo Alto. Palo Alto is now considered a bike-friendly city but was considerably less so back then. I remember my route went halfway on Central Expressway, which had a nice bike lane, but then turned into Alma Ave, a busy street with no bike lane and a narrow shoulder. I quickly mapped out a route that avoided Alma Ave by using quieter streets, otherwise I might not be here to write this blog.

I was already doing measures like these and others like keeping my bike well-maintained. My recent accident caused me to reconsider what I might have done differently, and I came up with: Use fatter tires. The bike I crashed on is considered a “gravel bike” and should have been sure-footed on the road I was on. It came with 32 mm wide tires, and when they wore out I replaced them with 25 mm to be faster. Safety first! I’ll be putting 32s back on the bike soon. I have also always prided myself on being a “fearless descender”. Since the crash occurred on a downhill turn, I think it is time to rather take pride in being a “cautious descender”.

References

Davies M, Lawrence T, Edwards A, et al, “Sport-related major trauma incidence in young people and adults in England and Wales: a national registry-based study”, Injury Prevention Published Online First: 24 October 2023. doi: 10.1136/ip-2023-044887.

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