Taking a bike ride can offer various health benefits, but along with those pros come the cons: notably, the risk of being seriously hurt in an accident. UC San Francisco researchers say such incidences have risen steadily for adults since the late 1990s, with more visits to the ER and hospital and more of the accompanying costs for medical care, per a new study in the Injury Prevention journal. Between 1997 and 2013, there were about 3.8 million non-fatal bicycle injuries and nearly 10,000 deaths, with a press release noting that the total outlay for all associated medical costs until the end of the study hit $237 billion—a figure about twice that of the costs linked to all other occupational illnesses during the same time. In 2013 alone, the costs for bike accidents hovered close to $24.5 billion.
That's also about a 137% spike over the course of the study for non-fatal accidents, and 23% for fatal ones. Men seem to have the most trouble behind the handlebars, racking up 75% of the total costs, and riders 45 and over are also faltering: While they accounted for only about 26% of total costs in 1997, by 2013 that figure had jumped to 54%. Scientists think the older set is seeing an increase in injuries simply because more older people are taking to their Schwinns, but they theorize worsening injuries overall could be from people bike-commuting more often. "To me, it clearly makes a strong case for investment in safer cycling infrastructure," says study co-author Benjamin Breyer, who adds that European cities, with more bike riders yet fewer accidents, seem to have figured out a way to minimize the hurt. (This vomit-inducing theft deterrent will ensure your bike stays put.)