The Block Island Times

Bike accidents are no joke

By Elizabeth Dyer | Aug 11, 2014
Photo by: Lars Trodson

During this summer we have seen a sizeable number of bicycle-related accidents. Several of these have required emergency medical evacuation with suspected or confirmed head injuries, as well as abdominal, facial and limb trauma. The Block Island community recognizes that not all accidents are avoidable; however, sometimes human error combined with a carefree vacation spirit results in an unquantifiable cost of physical pain, emotional stress, and costly medical bills.

Some basic statistics: nationally, 75 percent of all bicyclists who die each year succumb to a brain injury. 85 percent of those injuries could have been prevented with a helmet. In particular, the Centers for Disease Control lists that vacationers are often impacted, as they have a more carefree and safe feeling while vacationing, but this spirit often translates to practices that may result in injury.

Therefore, as we move into the tail end of the summer season, we are asking that our community of island residents, visitors, bicyclists and motorists be more aware of the hazards that may present themselves and be more cautious, have a heightened awareness, and take a few measures to make everyone’s time on the island enjoyable.

The Block Island Medical Center and the Rescue Squad would like to gently remind everyone on-island to take a few moments to review some basic recommendations so we can all get through our summer together.

The helmet law: Please, if you’re under the age of 15, it’s a law. If you’re older, it’s just good sense.

If you place your child on the back of a tandem bike, check for fit. Make sure the child’s feet can touch the ground from the rear seat and appropriate foot wear is worn. Toe scraping and road rash are common injuries.

Be cautious of cars and other vehicles. There are many bicyclists who are inexperienced, so use the right of way and hand signals when maneuvering. Be especially careful at target spots, in front of the Bagel Shop at Bridgegate Square, the three-way intersection at the police station, and by the statue of Rebecca. Take extra care to look before proceeding when exiting driveways and parking lots, and when going around parked cars.

Ride with traffic and in single file — often a car may be behind you and several cars behind it resulting in blind spots. Also, be aware many emergency workers (EMTs) aren’t equipped with sirens, so if you see emergency flashers, please pull over and wait for that vehicle to pass.

There are many hairpin curves on the island, look ahead as you ride and maneuver these at a slower speed. Riding downhill creates speed and on an unfamiliar bike, with unfamiliar brakes on unfamiliar terrain, may result in a visit to the medical center.

Sand. . . sand . . .sand. We live on an island — it’s unavoidable and moves with the wind and can cause small or large deposits all year long. If you are renting or own a home, and notice a manageable patch, please take five minutes to clean it up and then monitor for reaccumulation. If it’s too big or sizable, the town crew can help and want to keep our roads safe. Please contact them as they may not be aware of overnight deposits.

If you’re on a bike or a moped, as you approach sand — slow down. It’s that easy. Unexpected sand on a corner can present a secondary hazard, so approach the corners cautiously. Assume you will encounter sand and act accordingly.

Don’t drink and ride the bike, alcohol impairs perception and judgment. If you wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car then don’t get on a moped or bicycle. There are many taxis on the island or kind locals who can help get you to your destination, no questions asked.

Hitting your head with or without a helmet can cause impaired mental status. Seek treatment immediately if there is any change in conciousness, (i.e., memory, speech, coordination, behavior, or headache). Head injuries do not always involve wounds or bleeding; the impact of hitting the pavement with your head can create a forceful deceleration type of injury.

Hitting the handlebars with your abdomen can cause a rapid life-threatening injury with rupture of internal organs. Any collision that involves this with resultant discomfort that may or may not be severe, requires evaluation.

Take care of each other. If your bike or moped partner goes down, stay with him or her and call for help. Attempting to move someone who is injured is a delicate process; please call the rescue squad at (401) 466-3220 and wait for help. While waiting, cover the person for warmth and keep yourself safe from traffic.

We recognize cell service can be patchy. When you stop for a break, check to see signal strength of the area you are in. In the event you have an accident in an area without cell — stay put and wait to flag down the first vehicle or have a fellow biker ride to get assistance.

The Block Island Medical Center and the Rescue Squad want everyone to enjoy their stay — and then come back next year to do it all again.

Elizabeth Dyer is a nurse practitioner at The Block Island Medical Center.

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