Just How Dangerous Is Cycling?
According to the best numbers available for 2012, one cyclist in Britain was killed every three days. The estimated numbers of injured, characterized as serious and slight were 3,222 and 15,751, respectively.
Curiously, the number killed (118) is comparable to those for the Netherlands, but the difference is the sheer numbers of active, daily cyclists in Holland dwarf those in the UK. Yet, despite these tragic numbers, it turns out, comparatively, they aren't as bad as they seem. Explains the NHS:
Official figures taken from the NTS suggest that the general risk of injury from cycling in the UK is just 1 injury per 19,230 hours of cycling.
The cycling charity CTC points out that evidence suggests you are more likely to be injured during an hour of gardening than an hour of cycling.
It is possible that cycling has become more dangerous; however, the increased risk is thought to be small and should be seen in an appropriate context.
Still, no one wants to see anyone either killed or seriously injured, what the report abbreviates as KSI. So how can you lower your level of risk when cycling? Training has a lot to do with it, it turns out. Simply know what not to do can make a huge difference. One of the most common ways cyclists are KSI is by motor vehicle collisions, particularly when riding into a driver's blind spot on the left side of the vehicle in Britain. In countries where vehicles are driven on the right side of the road, instead of the left as in the UK and other Commonwealth countries, the lorry driver's blind spot is on the right side [see above illustration of new lorry design]. The most dangerous time is when the driver prepares to make a right-hand turn and unknowingly veers into the cyclist. Women cyclists are particularly at risk in this situation the numbers suggest.
The NHS advises that if you're overtaking a heavy motor vehicle, especially, that you pass them on the driver's side.
Are there particular times of the day when cycling is more dangerous? The statistics say there is, but curiously, it depends on your age. Most younger riders are injured during morning and evening rush hours, while older riders who may be retired are injured more time between rush hours.
And then there's the never-settled debate on helmets. Citing the British Medical Journal, the NHS articles observes, "many instances when the use of cycle helmets increased (either through choice or by law); however, the actual number of KSIs remained unchanged or, in some cases, increased."
Increased? How come?
They suggest several possible causes:
- They may encourage the cyclist to undertake riskier behaviour
- They may make motorists less considerate of the cyclist
- Helmets may only be effective for minor injuries
- Helmet wearers could be more risk adverse and therefore less likely to be involved in a KSI
So, between the deaths and injuries, is cycling really all that good for you and me?
Turns out the stats say it is by miles, or actually months. Citing a Dutch study in 2010, the NHS noted:
... on average, the benefits associated with regular cycling equated to up to 14 months extra life expectancy. The risks equated to a decreased life expectancy of up to 40 days; however, this was the upper limit and the figure may be closer to the 20-day mark. This represents an impressive benefit to risk ratio, despite only looking at the physical benefits of exercise. However, there are also documented psychological benefits of exercise, such as an improvement in mood, increased self-confidence and reduced risk of depression.
So it appears that, despite the risks, cycling is emphatically good for you.
SOURCE: National Health Service/UK
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