Isn’t cycling dangerous?
- Issue Time
It might surprise you to hear that cycling’s not especially dangerous.
But what about all those stories about cyclists getting killed that you see on the news? Thing is, news is about rare events. Cyclist deaths are rare, so they make the news. The far higher number of pedestrian and motor vehicle deaths don’t.
Cycling is statistically safe. “Per year, there are 10 to 15 fatalities due to people falling off bikes with no other vehicle involved,” says safety expert and co-author of Health on the Move, Malcolm Wardlaw. "Around 200 under-65s each year die in falls while walking. I don’t remember the last time I read a newspaper report of a pedestrian killed falling down steps, yet far rarer cases of cyclists killed in falls get a lot of media coverage — together with whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet or not.”
The perception of cycling risk doesn’t match the reality
Even when you throw motor vehicles into the mix, cycling remains stubbornly safe. It’s a little more risky than driving in the UK, taken as an average, but not much.
The vast number of very safe motorway miles covered by British drivers skews the stats in the car’s favour too. And it’s not like UK cycle commuters are constantly running the gauntlet compared with their counterparts in the Netherlands. “Minority status generates fear,” says Wardlaw.
John Franklin, cycling skills expert and author of Cyclecraft, agrees that the perception of cycling risk doesn’t match the reality. “There’s nothing in life that’s risk free,” he says. “It’s about the management of risk, not simply the fear of risk. As a cycle commuter, managing risk means being assertive, and behaving like traffic so that others will treat you as traffic.”