Dangers of cycling

Bradley Wiggins on the dangers of cycling

Bradley Wiggins

It is safer to cycle in England than to drive in France (“sorry, Bradley, helmets are not the answer”, Christian Wolmar, The Times  Opinion, Aug 3).  For young male road users, it is safer to cycle than to drive.  For older road users, the added risk of cycling rather than driving is about comparable to the added risk of driving on an all-purpose road rather on a motorway. This small added risk is, for the individual, outweighed many times over by the health benefit. Cycling increases life expectancy whereas driving reduces it.  For the population as a whole the small added risk is considerably outweighed by reduced risk to third parties.

The mistaken perception that cycling is dangerous tragically dissuades a lot of people from cycling and thereby causes many “unrecognised” deaths from heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and depression.  If we make cycle helmets compulsory we feed this perception by placing cycling in the same category as motor cycling or being on a building site.  With one exception cycling rates have fallen whenever such laws have been adopted.  The exception is Ontario, where rates were already very high and the law was not enforced.

The case for compulsory cycle helmets  is weaker than the case for football helmets and on a par with the case for helmets whilst driving.

Dr. Stephen Watkins
Dr. Jennifer Mindell
Transport & Health Study Group,
Stockport

Published in The Times Saturday, 4 Aug 2012

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2 Comments

  1. Shibley says:

    Interesting post.

    Generally the public aren’t that good at assessing risk – remember the furore in how the media reported Prof David Nutt’s comments about the relative risk of horse riding compared to ecstasy?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jun/19/david-nutt-alcohol-cannabis-cafes

  2. I think the public are often better at assessing risk than we give them credit for. I also think, as one of them, that we are poorly served by those who understand statistics, research methods and risk better than we do and whose prognostications make it hard to make a decision as to one’s personal safety as opposed to that of the herd. I wear a cycle helmet, not because I believe it will confer immortality in the face of a charabanc’s bumper, but to protect my cranium from lesser insults and knocks. Prof. Nutt was correct in all he said and those who couldn’t cope with what he said were not the public, but the usual suspects at ministerial level who actually do the public no favours by continually discouraging more complicated debate for the sake of remaining in power and continuing to mete out the levels of strife that account for more deaths every year than road travel ever will.

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