Is Cycling More Dangerous than… Walking, Football, Tennis, Gardening!?

Like almost everything we do in life, cycling – to a certain extent – contains an element of risk.

Even if you choose to sit “safely” on the sofa and avoid all danger, you’re actually taking the biggest risk. After all, heart disease is the leading cause of death in humans (around 9 million people died from this in 2019) and too much sitting has been shown to significantly increase this likelihood.

That said, there’s certainly been a case for making cycling safer, particularly since COVID-19 struck and simultaneously seemed to trigger a global bike boom.

Let’s take a look at how safe cycling should be in 2021, and compare it to a number of other physical activities – some of which may shock you by being statistically more dangerous than riding a bike?

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Is Cycling More Dangerous than…



Is Cycling Dangerous?

Nowadays, cycling is probably a lot safer than you think. The advent of cycle paths and pop-up bike lanes, for instance, during the coronavirus pandemic has given cyclists their own designated space and should keep any brushes with cars or other vehicles to a minimum.

The safety in cycling is backed up by the stats, too. Numbers from the National Travel Survey showed that a cycling fatality occurred once every nine million bike rides, and that the risk of any injury while riding was just five per cent for 1,000 hours of cycling.

So yes, it can be dangerous, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. The benefits, not just for your physical health but your mental wellbeing, should hugely outweigh your fears, added to the fact it’s probably never been safer to cycle in your area than it is now. 



Is Cycling More Dangerous Than… Walking?

Funnily enough, no it isn’t. 

Government statistics have shown that, for every year from 2010 to 2019 in Britain, there have been more pedestrians reported killed or seriously injured in road accidents than pedal cyclists (e.g. 2019: 3,653 pedestrians, 3,089 cyclists).



Is Cycling More Dangerous Than… Running?

Runners are categorised along with walkers as ‘pedestrians’, so it’s safe to assume here that, again, cycling is less dangerous than running.

In terms of injury, this is also the case; according to Men’s Health, cycling causes six injuries every 1,000 hours, compared to 11 running-related injuries during the same time frame.

Is Cycling More Dangerous Than… Football?

No – figures show that, in the UK, the fatality rates per participant are 4.9 times greater in football than they are in cycling.



Is Cycling More Dangerous Than… Horse Riding?

Those same figures for football found that, in the UK, horse riding fatality rates are 29 times bigger per participant than in cycling.

Is Cycling More Dangerous Than… Tennis?

Those same figures for football and horse riding also found that, in the UK, tennis fatality rates are four times larger per participant than in cycling.



Is Cycling More Dangerous Than… Gardening!?

Maybe not. There’s certainly evidence, if a little outdated, to suggest as much, anyway.

In 1998, researchers asked 5,238 people if they had done a number of activities (including cycling or gardening) in the last 30 days. Those who answered ‘yes’ for any of them were asked further questions, including whether they were injured ‘severely enough that you went for medical care or missed one half-day or more of work, housework, or school’. The results showed 0.9 per cent for cycling, and 1.6 per cent for gardening.

In addition, a January 2003 study by Central Queensland University in Australia found that, of 1,337 surveyed, five per cent of gardeners had required medical attention due to injuries sustained, compared to just 3.9 per cent of cyclists.



Is Cycling More Dangerous Than… Driving?

No. Going off those same figures which compared UK pedestrian deaths and injuries to cyclists between 2010 and 2019, those numbers are even higher for drivers.

In 2019, for instance, 3,089 cyclists were reported to have been either killed or injured, compared to 4,545 car drivers. Indeed, the number of car driver deaths or injuries never dropped below 3,679 in this decade, and exceeded the respective number of cyclists every year.

Plus, in comparing census records in England and Wales and data from the Office for National Statistics, a study by the National Institute for Health Research showed a 20 per cent decrease in all causes of death for those who cycle to work, compared to those who commute using personal vehicles like cars or motorbikes.



Cycling Health Benefits

To summarise, here’s a few key advantages to your health, both mental and physical, from regular cycling:

  • Reduced risk of cancer (up to 11 per cent in some cases)
  • Increases your cardiovascular fitness, leg strength and muscle tone
  • Improves your breathing
  • Burns more body fat
  • Improves your mental health and reduces stress
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Strengthens your bones and immune system


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Pete Reynolds

Pete is the co-founder and editor of Discerning Cyclist. He commutes by bike daily from his home to his co-working space. Originally from Wirral, UK, Pete now lives in Spain. When visiting a new city, Pete loves nothing more than to explore it on two wheels. See Pete's Muck Rack profile

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