Aspen region sees increased bicycle and e-bike accident toll

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A group of e-cyclists stop in the middle of Maroon Creek Road on the way to the Maroon Bells in July 2021. As the number of injured patients related to bicycle or e-bike accidents who have been admitted or transferred to the service of trauma of AVH increased from 30 in 2019 to 39 in 2021, the share of these injuries attributed to electric bikes increased from 20% to 30%. (Kelsey Brunner / The Aspen Times)

Pitkin County and Aspen have seen an overall increase in bicycle and e-bike accidents over the past five years, according to data from Pitkin County Open Space and Trails and the Aspen Police Department. As a result, the trauma department at Aspen Valley Hospital is seeing more and more seriously injured bicycle patients, an increasing proportion of whom are the result of electric bicycle accidents.

“It’s definitely higher than it’s ever been,” said Dr. Christopher Roseberry, AVH Trauma Medical Director. “Electric bikes are so popular and electric bike rentals are so popular among visitors. We started the season expecting to see more e-bike injuries, and that’s what we ended up seeing.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trail Rangers have reported a total of 110 bicycle and e-bike accidents on OST properties since 2016. Twenty-six of them involved e-bikes, according to an analysis from Aspen Journalism.



Since 2018, Class 1 pedal assisted electric bikes, or electric bikes, are allowed on paved or compacted gravel trails. They are still not allowed on single track trails.

Gary Tennenbaum, director of OST, wrote in an email that the increased use of e-bikes, increased use of trails in general and the explosion in demand for rental bikes have resulted in more accidents cycling on the trails.



“Electric bikes are attractive because the user can travel further faster and with moderate ease,” Tennenbaum wrote. “It brings a wide variety of people to the trails, including inexperienced cyclists. “

Electric bikes are also heavier and faster, making them harder to control, according to Tennenbaum.


Sixty-two percent of crashes occurred on the Rio Grande Trail, with a total of 68 bicycle and e-bike crashes in the past five years. Fourteen of them involved an electric bicycle.

Tennenbaum links this high number of accidents to the popularity of the trail.

Nothing

Over the years, the number of accidents has increased. In 2018, the OST reported a total of 19 accidents, but that number rose to 27 in 2019, including seven incidents related to e-bikes. That year, the number of bicycle and e-bike accidents was the highest since 2016.

Although the total number of accidents decreased slightly in 2020 to 24, the proportion of e-bike accidents fell from 26% in 2019 to 38% in 2020, with a total of nine e-bike accidents.

In 2021, the OST recorded 13 bicycle and e-bike accidents up to October 5, including seven involving e-bikes. Five of the bicycle and e-bike accidents that have occurred this year have occurred on the Rio Grande trail, including one involving an electric bicycle.

According to Tennenbaum, trail use is down slightly from 2020 but remains higher than pre-pandemic years.

“The Woody Creek Tavern was closed until mid-July,” Tennenbaum wrote, suggesting that the numbers were probably withheld on the Rio Grande trailhead, “and we only get notifications of accidents that get a call. to 911 or when the rangers have an accident. “

Overall attendance fell 5% on OST trails this summer compared to summer 2020, according to OST data. The Brush Creek Trail lost approximately 40% of its visits between June and September 2021 compared to the summer months of 2020. Visits to the Upper Rio Grande Trail also declined from 64,068 in summer 2020 to 63,415 this summer.

The only exception was the Rio Grande Trail at Stein Park, which recorded about 8,800 more visits this summer than in summer 2020.

People ride e-bikes and mechanical bikes on a Rio Grande Trail bridge near Basalt in July 2020 (Kelsey Brunner / The Aspen Times)

Severe e-bike injuries doubled from 2019 to 2021

Twenty-four of the 28 total bicycle accidents causing head injuries (including possible head injuries) since 2016 involved non-electric bikes, according to OST data. The other four were for electric bicycles.

“Head injuries are more serious and 911 is usually called, so we can track them,” Tennenbaum wrote. “Many injuries go unreported if they are not serious. We are starting to track helmet use, but of our rangers they estimate that a large majority wear a helmet on the track. “

The number of serious electric bike injuries requiring admission to the AVH doubled from 2019 to 2021, from six in 2019 to 12 in 2021, according to the facility.


And while the number of injured patients related to bicycle or e-bike accidents who were admitted or transferred to the AVH trauma service rose from 30 in 2019 to 39 in 2021, the share of these injuries attributed to electric bikes went from 20% to 30%, according to Jennifer Slaughter, marketing director of AVH.

Dr Christopher Roseberry, Trauma Medical Director at Aspen Valley Hospital
Courtesy Image

The only exception to this trend was last year, as the total number of serious bicycle and e-bike injuries fell to 26, only two of which involved an e-bike. “At the start of the summer of last year, we just didn’t have a lot of people in town (due to the pandemic) so the total number of hospitals was down,” said Roseberry, director. medical trauma of AVH.

However, these figures do not give the complete picture and only show the most serious injuries. Roseberry estimated that these numbers represent only about 10% to 11% of all bicycle and e-bike injuries, as most do not require hospitalization.

Head injuries and broken collarbones, arms and ribs are the most common injuries caused by serious bicycle and e-bike crashes, Roseberry said.

Over the past summer, the majority of bicycle crashes resulting in serious injury involved electric bikes, Roseberry said, according to an indicator used by AVH that assesses the severity of injuries.

E-bike riders are generally older and have a higher risk of serious injury

In 2021, the average age of severely injured adults on an electric bicycle was 69, Roseberry said, while the average age of severely injured adults on a non-electric bicycle was 51.

“It’s a much older population,” he says. “What we are really seeing is that a lot of injuries occur when people ride beyond their level of ability to control the bike (and the electric bike).”

Since e-bikes give people the ability to do strenuous journeys that they wouldn’t normally do, like going to the top of the Maroon Bells or the top of Ashcroft, they can put cyclists, especially older users, on the road. , endangering them down as they travel faster, increasing the impact of the collision and their risk of losing control.

“Electric bikes are extremely heavy, which comes with their own risk because a heavy bike takes a lot longer to stop and it’s a lot harder to control,” Roseberry said.

Although AVH and OST have seen an increase in e-bike crashes and injuries, analysis of data from the Aspen Police Department shows that the service has recorded only one e-bike crash since 2016 among the 111 bicycle and e-bike accidents that occurred in cities from 2016 to 2021. Eighty-two percent of accidents were medical calls.

Department data showed that 2020 saw 23 accidents, just behind the 24 in 2016. As of August 25 of this year, there have been 15 accidents.

Twenty-seven of the crashes since 2016 have occurred in AP14, an area defined in Aspen police records as stretching from the roundabout to the entrance to Aspen and along Main Street, avoiding downtown and continuing through neighborhoods at the northeast end of town. In the AP10 zone, which includes the Rio Grande Trail corridor starting at Herron Park and the Hunter Creek and Centennial neighborhoods, 21 accidents have been recorded.

E-cyclists stand atop Maroon Creek Road to transform into a parking lot for the Maroon Bells day-use area in Aspen on Thursday, July 22, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner / The Aspen Times)

E-bike cyclists need to control their speed

This summer, the OST, Forest Service, Town of Aspen, Town of Snowmass Village, Aspen Chamber and Aspen Skiing Co. conducted an e-bike education campaign in Aspen and surrounding areas. .

“The chamber and the forest service made a video on the electric bike at the Maroon Bells,” Tennenbaum wrote. “We (OST) have created a website showing where you can ride an e-bike in Pitkin County, created flyers that all bike rental companies can distribute to e-bike rental companies with a QR code on this website. , which also contained information about e- safe. Cycling.”

Roseberry made bike safety videos for AVH’s social media last summer in hopes of reducing the number of injuries.

“It takes a lot more education because clearly we’re seeing a lot of injuries,” Roseberry said. “Part of education is knowing that e-bikes are heavy, they will easily put you in a situation that can be difficult to control the bike, so you really need to control your speed.”

Seventeen of the 39 people seriously injured in a bicycle accident were not wearing helmets, according to Roseberry.

“Bicycle helmets reduce serious head injuries by 60%,” Roseberry said, referring to national studies. “It’s definitely a motivation to wear one. “

Aspen Journalism covers local data in conjunction with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers. To learn more, visit http://www.aspenjournalism.org


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