While riding a bicycle in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District on Oct. 15, author Chen Ro-jinn was hit from behind by a scooter courier. Chen was alive when paramedics arrived but she was unconscious and had a fractured skull. After being taken to hospital, she died of her injuries on Monday last week at the age of 57.
At present, Taiwan has no legal requirement for bicyclists to wear helmets, but the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Health Promotion Administration (HPA) has in the past called, as well as mandatory wearing of helmets by motorcycle and scooter riders, for cyclists to also take safety seriously and put on a cycle helmet when riding on the road.
The HPA says people often wrongly believe that because bicycles are human-powered they must be safer than motor vehicles. What they fail to consider is that bicycles and motorized vehicles do not have separate lanes, and bicycles lack protective structures, making cyclists prone to physical injury in the event of a crash, especially during rush hour.
Photo: Hung Chen-hung, Liberty Times 照片：自由時報洪臣宏
According to a 2016 study by Taipei Medical University, the number of bicycle accidents in Taiwan grew from 7,213 in 2005 to 14,874 in 2013, and the proportion of bicycle accident deaths among all traffic accident deaths grew from 3.55 percent to 6.74 percent. The likelihood of an accident resulting in death, coma or disability was 2.4 times higher for those who did not wear a helmet while cycling than for those who did. 20.7 percent of those who did not wear helmets were in moderate to severe condition when they were admitted to hospital, compared to 2.3 percent of those who wore helmets. Those wore helmets stayed for fewer days in hospital than those who did not.
There are geographical and age differences in bicycle accidents. In urban areas, more accidents occur during commuting periods, whereas in rural areas the accident rate is higher in the afternoon. The number of bicycle accident patients with moderate to severe head trauma is about 3.2 times higher among those aged 65 years or older than those under 18 years old.
The HPA says that the number of deaths due to head trauma in motorcycle accidents in Taiwan fell sharply after the 1997 passage of a law mandating wearing a helmet when riding motorcycles and scooters. In contrast, in recent years, with the trend of saving energy and reducing carbon emissions, more and more people are riding bicycles, but most of them have not gotten into the habit of wearing helmets, so when an accident happens it can easily cause irreparable damage and regret.
Photo from the National Taiwan University Web site 照片翻攝自台大新聞研究所網站
(Liberty Times, translated by Julian Clegg)
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