When I was younger, there were many summer mornings I would take off on my 10-speed to bike around the neighborhood with friends. I still have the nasty scar on my knee from racing and taking a turn too sharp and too fast, my bicycle tires sliding out from under me as I crashed and slid on the gravel at the end of a driveway. Many of us had minor crashes on our bicycles in some form or another and we never wore bicycle helmets. Those were the days. Now, we know better.
It’s exciting to see Greenville become more and more of a bike-friendly community. Since the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail opened in May of 2009, it’s attracted about 500,000 bike riders each year. Greenville is earning a national reputation as a bicycling destination and even hosts a series of professional bike races. We all know it also happens to be the home of our own former professional cyclist, George Hincapie. Even now plans are in the works to update Greenville’s Bicycle Master Plan to provide protected bike lanes on our downtown streets, to further protect our cyclists.
Not just riding a bike, but in-line skating and skateboarding are also great ways to exercise around Greenville. But, without protective gear these and other wheeled sports can be extremely dangerous, even fatal. According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, bicycle riders without helmets are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal bicycle accident than bicycle riders with helmets. The most common and often most serious injury sustained with a bike or other wheeled sport is a head injury. Head injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in bicycle and wheeled sport crashes. Many of these head injuries can be prevented. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, bicycle helmets reduce head injuries by 85 percent and brain injury by 88 percent.
No state law requires adult bicyclists to wear helmets and children are required to wear helmets in only 21 states and the District of Columbia. There are currently no laws or ordinances in South Carolina that require bicycle helmet use for children or adults. Sadly, studies show that even in states with aggressive bicycle helmet programs and laws, approximately only 45 percent of children always wear a helmet while bicycling. In Greenville in the past six years, severe bicycle head and face traumas have increased by 47 percent at Greenville Memorial Hospital’s Level One Trauma Center (Prisma Health Trauma Registry; 2009 – 2015).
We need to increase helmet use, particularly in children, but also among adults. We encourage everyone to wear a helmet when riding a bike, skating, skateboarding, riding a scooter or participating in any other wheeled sport. The trauma and injury data supports helmet use for everyone. Keep in mind that even though it’s not a law to wear a helmet, it is still a really good idea. So, whenever you ride a bike or participate in a wheeled sport, please make wearing a helmet a mandatory and permanent habit.