The most serious injury a bicyclist can suffer is a head injury. For Coloradans out exercising during the pandemic, the most effective way to protect your head while biking is by wearing a helmet.

As Colorado’s stay-at-home order continues and coronavirus deaths climb to 374, more people are out walking and biking.

By early April, almost 300 million Americans were being urged or ordered to stay home as much as possible to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Dozens of states, including Colorado, now have stay-at-home orders in place. Although people are generally being allowed to take trips to the grocery store and perform other essential chores, most stores, businesses, and schools have been closed indefinitely. Gyms too. But getting outside for some exercise is also regarded as okay so long as the exercisers maintain their distance from other people. Because of the crisis, it is especially important right now to be cautious when out and about. Medical resources are stretched thin — very thin in some parts of the country. Depending on where you are, if you’re involved in an auto accident and suffer an injury, it may take much longer than usual for you to get help. You also don’t want to find yourself in a medical environment where it is easier to become infected.

Hospitals may be overwhelmed.

Wherever you are, the medical situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. According to one assessment, if 20 percent of the adult population in Colorado were to get sick over the next few months, hardly a farfetched prospect given the course of the pandemic thus far, “hospitals in the state would fill 120% of their total beds and 193% of their total ICU beds. That’s if all existing beds were dedicated to COVID-19 patients and used for no other patients.” Under such circumstances, a serious injury that otherwise would have been quickly attended to could be life-threatening.

Wear a helmet. Stay alert.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the most serious injury a bicyclist can suffer is a head injury. The most effective way to protect your head while biking is by wearing a helmet. In 2018, 854 cyclists died in bicycle accidents in the United States. Sixty-one percent of those killed were not wearing a safety helmet. Although most states do not mandate their use, that’s no excuse to skip wearing one. Now would also be a good time to read up on the rules of the road in Colorado that bikers should abide by in order to keep themselves and others safe. The League of American Bicyclists summarizes them as follows: follow the law; be predictable; be conspicuous; ride ready. This last tip means checking that “your tires are sufficiently inflated, brakes are working, chain runs smoothly, and quick release levers are closed. Carry tools and supplies that are appropriate for your ride.”

Walk warily.

Walking along a sidewalk sounds like a less complicated and treacherous enterprise than biking. But it is easy to get into trouble if you let yourself get distracted, for example by your cell phone. According to the National Safety Council, pedestrian fatalities have risen nearly 50 percent since 2009, a rise associated in part with “distracted walking.” It’s especially dangerous to be looking down at a phone instead of at the surrounding environment when you are at a crosswalk. Doctors concur. For example, Dr. Teresa Murray Amato at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

“As an emergency physician, I have personally taken care of patients that have walked into traffic, fallen in holes, and gotten into other dangerous situations while on a phone.” Head and neck injuries “are more likely to be caused by tripping, falling or walking into an object.”

In short: pay attention and avoid the emergency room.

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