posted by Jake Voelcker
Even one death is clearly one too many, and there is always room for improvement in road safety, but do you get the feeling that the media is currently slightly overplaying the risks involved in cycling? I've recently looked up a few research papers on the actual risks of cycling, and their conclusions are surprising - and very good news for cyclists.
A 2012 study of cycling in large European cities showed that the health benefits far outweighed the risks1 (see the graph above and the original here with more detail).
Similar results were found by a UK paper which found that the benefits
of cycling outweigh the risks by a factor of around 20:1 2, and a study published in the BMJ found that in Barcelona cycling was 77 times more beneficial than not cycling3.
Clearly the health benefits of cycling are important therefore, but how does it compare to other physical activities? The Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation have compared a number of different sports and methods of exercise, with interesting results. Only golf and rambling were moderately safer than cycling; swimming, tennis and even fishing were found to be considerably more dangerous4
1 Rabl and de Nazelle, Benefits of a shift from car to active transport. Transport Policy vol. 19, pp121-131, 2012. (www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0967070X11001119)
2 Hillman M, Cycling and the promotion of health. Policy Studies vol. 14 pp49-58, 1993. (www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01442879308423639)
3 David Rojas-Rueda. The Health Risks And Benefits of Cycling in Urban Environments Compared with Car Use: Health
4 Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation. (www.cyclehelmets.org/1026.html)
5 Wardlaw MJ. Assessing the Actual Risks Faced by Cyclists. Traffic Engineering & Control 2002;43:420-424. (www.cyclehelmets.org/papers/c2014.pdf)