There's a strong perception that cycling is very dangerous, but is it really? And if so, how dangerous? Cycling UK reports that "the health benefits of cycling outweigh the injury risks by between 13:1 and 415:1, according to various studies (and depending on the benefits/disbenefits considered)". Despite this, many people are put off cycling because they think it's unsafe: Around 70% of non-cyclists in Britain feel that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads; and over half (51%) of those who do cycle share this view. (ATT Statistical Release). It is Cycling UK's belief that, unfortunately, the behaviour and attitudes of some road users, sub-standard road layout and the volume and speed of the traffic all conspire to make cycling feel and look more dangerous than it actually is.
My view, based on 35 years as a regular cyclist, is that there are places where it is both dangerous and unpleasant to ride. However, with careful route choice it is usually possible to find safe and pleasant places to cycle. How you ride also has an impact on how drivers treat you. If you cycle along as close to the verge as you can, you are almost inviting cars to try and squeeze past. By positioning yourself a metre or so away from the curb, you can avoid having to ride over drains and you force cars to wait and overtake properly.
Of course, by choosing a mountain bike, you can avoid roads altogether, and can be pretty much in charge of setting the level of danger as high or low as you want. Although it may not be good option for the commute if there aren't any showers where you work.
And if you're the kind of person that likes statistics, here are some: using official police-reported road casualty figures, road traffic reports, population stats and the National Travel Survey, Cycling UK calculates that, on average, over 2011-15:
The general risk of injury of any severity whilst cycling was just 0.05 per 1,000 hours of cycling.
There were around 9.5 million cycle trips for every cyclist death;
One cyclist was killed on Britain’s roads for every 29 million miles travelled by bike - the equivalent to well over 1,000 times around the world;
So let's compare cycling with some activities that most of us would consider pretty safe:
According to a paper that looked at sports injuries, tennis is riskier than ‘outdoor cycling’ (5 injuries per 1,000 hours for tennis, 3.5 for cycling).
‘Rowing machine exercise’ came in at 6 injuries per 1,000 hours;
You are more likely to be injured in an hour of gardening than in an hour of cycling;
So put away your trowel, get out of the gym and onto your bike. The view's so much better that way! We offer guided rides and confidence boost sessions for all skill levels, finding the best trails to suit your goals.
Photo: Erich Ferdinand