AS MORE CYCLISTS take to the streets, the safer it is for them.

AS MORE CYCLISTS take to the streets, the safer it is for them.

The more people that cycle, the better the routes will be

It's important to note that there is a well-documented "safety in numbers" effect for pedestrians and cyclists...

It’s important to note that there is a well-documented “safety in numbers” effect for pedestrians and cyclists.

As more people get on their bikes or walk to work in a city, the safer these methods of transport become.

“In the Netherlands, which has some of the highest cycling rates in the world (almost 30 per cent of all trips are by bicycle) the injury risk for cyclists is 1.1 cyclists injured per 10 million km cycled,” stated a 2010 active transportation review.

“In comparison, in the U.K. and the U.S., only about one per cent of trips are made by bicycle, and the risk is 3.6 and 37.5 cyclists injured per 10 million km cycled.”

By 2017, residents of Portland, Ore., residents will have saved $64 million in health care costs thanks to bicycling. By 2040, the city will have invested $138-605 million in bicycling yet saved $388-594 million in health care costs and $143-218 million in fuel costs, a benefit-cost ratio of up to four to one.

It is widely acknowledged that cycling is one of the best ways for people to achieve good health and fitness. People who cycle regularly live longer than those who do not and lead healthier lives.

This simple fact means that cyclists cannot possibly be more vulnerable than the population at large to life-threatening injuries such as head injury.

Indeed, cycling regularly to work (and, by extension, to school and on other regular journeys) has been shown to be the most effective thing an individual can do to improve health and increase longevity, and this applies even to people who are already active in sport and other physical activities.

Cyclists typically have a level of fitness equivalent to being 10 years younger. A U.K. parliamentary health committee has noted:

“If the Government were to achieve its target of trebling cycling in the period 2000-2010 … that might achieve more in the fight against obesity than any individual measure we recommend within this report.”

The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by a substantial margin. Estimated benefit:cost ratios range from 20 to one to more than 77:1.

Safe though cycling is by comparison with other common activities, it has been shown that cycling becomes safer still the more people who do it — for a doubling in cycle use, risk decreases by a third.

However, the converse of the above is also true.

If fewer people cycle, perhaps because they have been deterred by cycle helmet laws or the exaggerated claims sometimes made to promote helmet wearing, then the health loss to both individuals and society is considerable, whilst those who continue to cycle will be at greater risk.

It is likely that few people who quit cycling recover the loss of health benefits through other activity.

Principal references:

www.cyclehelmets.org/1015.html 206 Froböse, 2004.

www.cyclehelmets.org/1015.html 207 Cavill and Davis, 2007.

Margaret Harris, president of the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition, writes Shifting Gears. It appears every fourth week.

Comox Valley Record

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