As the weather gets warmer and days get longer, people all around the city are trading in their car keys and MetroCards for bike shorts and hitting the pavement on two wheels.
But while riding a bike is popular leisure activity for both adults and children — not to mention a popular form of exercise — it can be dangerous.
Though it has been law for children to wear helmets for nearly two decades, many bike riders do not wear helmets and that could often lead to serious, often permanent or fatal injuries.
Though it’s been said over and over again, if you don’t want your next bike trip to be your last, wear a helmet.
Dr. Gonzalo Vazquez-Casals, a neuropsychologist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, is unfortunately no stranger to treating head injuries stemming from bicycle accidents. He warns that 97 percent of all fatal accidents involving bicycles are due to injuries to the head when a rider is not wearing a helmet, he says.
“Helmets are the best safeguard that we have right now,” Dr. Vazquez-Casals said.
Even if brain injuries are not fatal, he said they can cause severe permanent damage. For those who are able to be treated and recover, the doctor said he has seen recoveries take many years, with some permanent damage likely.
“You may see not only memory problems, but behavior problems as well,” Dr. Vazquez-Casals warns.
Most helmets that are sold in stores are mandated by regulations to meet certain standards and should work just fine, but the doctor warned there are certain factors to keep in mind when choosing to buy and using a helmet.
“It’s very important that the helmet is appropriate in size and is well fitted.” he said. “Once a helmet is cracked, most likely it has to be discarded.”
The doctor also suggests bicycle riders adhere to the rules of the road and stay on bike lanes where they are available. Most injuries he sees come from bicyclists who are struck by cars, and especially trucks, on busy streets.
“If there’s a bike lane, they should definitely use that,” Dr. Vazquez-Casals said. “In areas where there are no bike lanes, they should follow traffic regulations.”