Is cycling a great way to get fit and save money on transport costs, or an increasingly dangerous pastime? Cycling safety hit the headlines in November 2013 after a spate of cyclist deaths occurred in London over a two-week period and led to a range of claims and counter claims on safety.
These figures are based on incidents reported to the police, so the true figure for cyclists being slightly injured is likely to be much higher.
There has been a rise in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSIs) over the past few years. This rise in KSI incidents has to be matched against the increasing number of people choosing to cycle. The National Travel Survey (NTS) of 2012 estimated an increase of around 23% in the number of cyclists, compared to the 2005-2009 period.
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. A 2009 analysis by the Transport Research Laboratory (a private research organisation) found that during the 2005-2007 period, 82% of KSIs were male. However, there is evidence that women in the UK have a greater risk of being involved in a collision with an HGV than men. The latest study into London's cycle hire scheme found that women were twice as likely to be involved in a fatal collision with an HGV, despite making up just 30% of the scheme’s participants. One theory is that, somewhat counterintuitively, this increased danger is actually due to women being less willing to take risks.
A leaked TfL internal report suggests that women are less likely to jump red lights, meaning they are more likely to get caught in an HGV’s blind spot. One UK researcher has argued that many women wrongly perceive that overtaking an HGV on the left-hand side is less risky, possibly because they believe sticking close to the curb is safer.
Ideally, you shouldn't try overtaking an HGV (see Are HGVs the biggest risk to cyclists?), but if you do, it is safer to overtake on the right-hand side.
Overtaking an HGV on the left-hand side means you are in a driver’s blind spot for several seconds, and the vehicle could swerve suddenly into your path. Riding aside these giant beasts of the road can be intimidating, but data suggests they are not as dangerous as other vehicles.
Unsurprisingly, however, cyclists involved in an HGV collision tended to sustain more serious injuries than those involving cars. In 2013, there were 14 reported fatalities in London, nine of which involved an HGV.
However, it’s worth highlighting that a significant number of these incidents occurred when cyclists were impaired by alcohol. The message for cyclists is clear: look out for vehicles of all types, but don't forget to watch out for yourself. Working-aged adults are most likely to be killed between the commuting time periods (6am to 9am and 3pm to 6pm), while retired adults are more likely to be killed between 9am and 5pm. The latest figures from TfL show that most cyclist casualties in the capital were on A-roads, with the majority happening at “Give Way” T-junctions and at crossroads. In summary, accident hotspots exist, but they are not necessarily at a fixed place and time. To understand the contributory causes to fatal cycle accidents, the Transport Research Laboratory has analysed data from 2005 to 2007.
London is not as safe as some other major cities, many of which are designed to be cycle-friendly.
There are an estimated 15 cycling deaths a year in Amsterdam, which is slightly higher than the London average.
Compared to less cycle-friendly cities with similar populations, such as New York or Paris, cyclist deaths in London are similar, according to news reports.
TfL figures show that the number of KSIs per year has remained relatively constant since 2000. However, public perception (often driven by media reports) has a big role in influencing how safe a city feels to its residents. There was particular concern during the end of 2013, when six fatalities in the city occurred over just two weeks (see Links to the headlines), with many commentators, cycling advocates and local politicians calling for urgent action.
Statistical clumping is when a number of low-probability events (such as fatal accidents) occur over a short period of time, purely by chance, and may not be indicative of a wider trend. TfL statistics show that between 1986 and 2010, annual cyclist deaths in the 18-59 age group rose by 85%.
This would suggest cyclists of a working age (commuters) are more likely to be involved in a fatal accident.
However, as the deaths in 2012 and 2011 were more evenly distributed, not as much media comment was made. There are steps that can be taken to make London (and other UK cities) more cycle-friendly. While London is not the safest place in the world to cycle, it’s certainly not the most dangerous, and appears to be safer than it was 10 or 20 years ago.
There is also the possibility that making helmets legally compulsory could deter people from taking up cycling, and this could be counterproductive in terms of improving public health.

The rules of the Union Cycliste Internationale (sport cycling’s world governing body) state that all riders must wear a helmet in competition and during training. A 2010 Dutch study attempted to answer this question, creating a sophisticated statistical model in which the potential benefits and risks of cycling were compared. The risks to cyclists were pinpointed as exposure to air pollution and the risk of having an accident.
They estimated that, on average, the benefits associated with regular cycling equated to up to 14 months extra life expectancy. While there is a great deal that could be done to make our roads safer for cyclists, the risks to your safety should not put you off taking up cycling. The DfT offers Bikeability training schemes – described as “cycling proficiency for the 21st century”! Follow Behind the Headlines on Twitter or debate these issues on the HealthUnlocked Healthy Evidence forum. London cyclist deaths: SIXTH person killed in collision with HGVs on capital's roads in TWO weeks. London primary school children learn about road safety and the many health benefits of cycling to school. Going gluten-free 10 years ago was one of the most overwhelming and terrifying things I had ever experienced. Tests on four major brands found they became less effective after six to eight hoursUsing sunscreen which claims it needs to be applied only once a day will not fully protect against the sun, a watchdog has warned.
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When it comes to walking or cycling, you ultimately have to determine which one inspires you to get up and move. The most authoritative data on cycling safety and accidents is provided by the Department for Transport (DfT). The DfT estimates that the number of KSIs in 2012 was 32% higher than the average recorded for the 2005-2009 period. However, it is difficult to accurately measure the rise in either cycling journeys or the time and distance travelled. These incidents are shocking, and may have led to a perception that female cyclists are more likely to be involved in a collision. For example, a 2013 Dutch study found that male cyclists were less likely to have lights fitted to their bikes and more likely to run red lights at train crossings than female cyclists. The researcher did find a statistically significant trend in women reporting to be “left-side overtakers”. It would be easy to blame male risk-taking machismo, but the truth is we still don’t know why men are more at risk as cyclists. Motorcyclists are around 35 times more likely to be killed in a road accident than car occupants. Sitting in a car stuck in a traffic jam is not going to reduce your risk of heart disease or diabetes.
The 2012 DfT report recorded 2,434 collisions between a cyclist and a car, with the KSI rate between a cyclist and an HGV just 114.
Transport Research Laboratory estimated that around one in four “non-collision cycle accidents” was the result of drunk cycling.
This trend is then entirely reversed during the weekend, with around 60% of cycling deaths occurring on rural roads. However, more than half of all Amsterdam's residents cycle daily, so while the number is higher, the actual risk to individual cyclists on a journey is far lower than in London. While it is true that KSIs have increased over the past few years, the number of people cycling has increased significantly, according to TfL data. However, in purely statistical terms, those two weeks could have been an example of what is known as “statistical clumping”. This is the same figure as 2012 and  lower than that seen in 2011 (when 16 deaths occurred). One member of the Behind the Headlines team spoke to a DfT researcher, who said the issue of cycle helmets is the most contentious he has ever had to deal with – and he has still not reached a conclusion.
The rule was introduced following the death of Kazakh rider Andrey Kivilev in the 2003 Paris-Nice race. 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. Bicyclist fatalities involving heavy goods vehicles: gender differences in risk perception, behavioural choices and training. Gender differences in recreational and transport cycling: a cross-sectional, mixed-methods comparison of cycling patterns, motivators and constraints. I was having horrible stomach pain, reflux, ulcers, etc, and at 19 I had zero quality of life. My doctor flat told me I could continue to eat gluten but I would most likely develop colon cancer by the time I was 40. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga.

In the study, participants burned 400 to 600 calories per session, five days per week for 10 months. Interval training, in which you alternate all-out effort with reduced effort for a recovery period, has proven to stimulate certain fat-burning mechanisms.
High-quality bikes can cost in the thousands, and even basic roadsters can set you back a few hundred dollars. Walking puts pressure on the joints, which can be painful, especially if you have arthritis or other joint problems.
Even if you decide cycling is better in terms of calorie burn and intensity, if you despise riding your bike or hitting the road with the cars frightens you, it's not the best exercise for your weight-loss goals. While it is relatively straightforward to estimate car ownership, based on official data such as car registrations and tax records, no such robust data exists for cyclists.
In fact, men and boys are far more likely to be involved in a KSI incident than women and girls. Instead, cyclists were injured or killed for reasons such as falling off or hitting the kerb.
Whatever the true extent of “blame” (if any can or should be laid), it is important to note that cyclists are likely to come off worse from a collision. The zero figure corresponds to La Ville de Paris (central Paris, where HGVs have been banned at rush hour) – an area the equivalent in size to zones 1 and 2 in London's transport system.
This would suggest that cycling has become a lot safer in London, compared to previous decades. There is the stock journalistic phrase: “You can’t put a price on a life”, but economists and politicians inevitably have to.
This represents an impressive benefit to risk ratio, despite only looking at the physical benefits of exercise. My biopsy came back positive for Celiac but my blood-work was negative, so my doctors weren’t sure at the time how to diagnose me. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University. In one hour of leisurely cycling, at a pace slower than 10 mph, a 155-pound person burns 281 calories. You can perform intervals while walking, but you may have trouble getting your heart rate to near maximum without breaking into a run. If you find your form of exercise painful, you are less likely to do it and -- as the University of Kansas researchers showed -- the route to weight loss with exercise is through consistency.
Therefore, it is important to put the current risk of cyclists being involved in a KSI incident in context. A 2005 paper found that the majority of HGV collisions occur when the vehicle is travelling at less than 10 mph.
Even the safest cyclist cannot avoid all possibility of an accident, and these figures would suggest that greater vigilance on the part of all road users would reduce the chances of a collision.
However, having no cycling deaths in such a densely populated urban area is an impressive feat. It is a decision that health policy makers (such as NICE) have to make all the time, as spending on one aspect of healthcare reduces the ability to spend money on another. However, there are also documented psychological benefits of exercise, such as an improvement in mood, increased self-confidence and reduced risk of depression. For longer rides, you’ll also appreciate biking shorts and stiff-bottomed cycling shoes.
Walking and cycling are two low-impact ways to burn calories and help you win in the battle of the bulge.
This will provide you with options and variety, both of which may increase your adherence to exercise and improve your chances of losing weight.
You can do both forms of exercise indoors -- on a treadmill or a stationary cycle -- or outdoors to connect with nature. Although cycling has the potential for a greater calorie burn, if you never feel confident enough on your bike to go faster than 10 mph, you may be better off race-walking to burn more calories to lose weight. Biking enables you to cover more outdoor miles in one workout session, however, so if seeing a lot of scenery inspires you to exercise, it may be superior. She is a certified dietician with experience in Type 2 diabetes and menu planning for weight loss. You can connect with her on Facebook and Google+{ 2 comments… read them below or add one } Ben June 26, 2012 at 4:59 pmI do 5 days off then 1 day medium followed by 1 day of high carbs (no sugars though)! This works a treat and if calculated and adjusted during weight loss I find a 2-3Ib weight loss of mainly water and fat is very possible.Yes I am a bodybuilder but this can easily work for anyone.

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