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If you’re reading this, chances are that you love riding your bike, or you’d like to get into it – most likely to your place of work. But you may be wondering how safe it is to do so.
So, is cycling to work safe? Let’s find out…
Bicycle vs Car Accident Statistics
In 2019 the British Department for Transport recorded that 42% of road deaths were car occupants and only 6% pedal cyclists. Therefore strictly speaking the statistics don’t look too promising for choosing the car as your commuting choice and a lot more favourable for cycling.
Similarly, pedestrians were also included in the same study which found that they were also more likely to to suffer a fatality, coming in at 27% of road deaths in the UK for 2019. Therefore suggesting in the UK that maybe cycling is the safest option?
Taking a closer look at UK statistics, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reported in 2019, that 100 pedal cyclists were killed, 4,333 seriously injured and 12,451 slightly injured in Great Britain alone.
In comparison to the UK’s Department of Transports reported 736 deaths from car occupants in the same year, a figure which is actually down by 5% from the following year.
However, these figures will only include the reported number of cyclists killed or injured in road accidents, therefore it’s important to bear in mind that there will be a dark figure that goes unreported in official statistics, thus it could be higher.
But, if you want to take a more indepth dive into specifically whether or not cycling in general is dangerous there’s lots of information available on our platform.
Is Cycling to Work Safer Than Driving?
One study from the European Road Observatory in 2018 found that the peaks of cyclist fatalities were from Monday to Thursday and Friday are between 14:00 and 18:00. The time frame thus potentially implies that these fatalities occurred while the victims were commuting back home at rush hour.
The same study also found that in comparison to other modes of transport (driving for one) relatively many cyclists were killed between the times of 8:00 and 18:00. Once again alluding to the idea that commuting cyclists are possibly more likely to suffer a fatality in comparison to car drivers.
However, generally speaking cyclists are still less likely than drivers to suffer a fatality or injury subsequent to riding on the road.
The European Road Observatory in 2018, while investigating work-related road safety in motor vehicles, estimated that between 40-60% of all work accidents resulting in death are road accidents while using the road for work and while commuting.
Equally, the same source also stated that work-related motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death and long-term injury in the workplace and in driving associated with work in Europe back in 2018.
Therefore it’s easy to see that both modes of transport can have their setbacks when used for commuting. But statistically, cycling could therefore be safer with everything considered.
Cycling vs Driving: Short-Term Statistics
The charity, Diabetes Canada, reported that the short term benefits of exercise, including cycling, from a physiological perspective include: lowering your blood sugar within 1 hour, proven to give you more energy as well as strength during the day.
Matta Mello Portugal, MSc (2013) found evidence that both aerobic exercise can have positive effects on those who are experiencing depressive symptoms, therefore helping to support the idea that cycling to work (an aerobic activity) has positive short term effects on the brain.
Additionally, he noted in the same study that it appeared moderate-intensity exercise also improved behavioral, affective, mood or anxiety responses in people. Once again helping to suggest that riding to work regularly can really have a great short term effect on your wellbeing and mental health.
On the other hand however, regarding those who commute via cars, Marc A. Adams (2014) findings suggested that longer driving durations were linked to short term effects like higher odds for smoking. These odds also coincided with a likelihood of: insufficient physical activity, short sleep, obesity, and a worse mental health.
Moreover, Sociology professor, Norbert Schneider (2001), found in one study that a whopping 60 percent of the workers complained about having little time for interests. This includes: no sports, no clubs and not even occasional outings with friends. A very sad short term social effect of long car commutes.
Overall alluding to the possibility that driving a car to work has more short term social, physical and mental setbacks in comparison to cycling to work. Which seems to bring many short term mental and physical positives, if we are to go by the research.
Cycling vs Driving: Long-Term Statistics
We know cycling and moving our bodies is good for our health, it’s common knowledge, but just how bad can driving be on our long term health, and is commuting in our cars the culprit?
One study looking at countries in the European Union noted that the increase in the prevalence of sedentary behaviour was explainable by social as well as environmental changes, this included longer work commute durations using transport such as cars.
It’s undeniable that when it’s raining and cold or you’re running late it can feel like jumping in the car can be the more practical option in comparison to cycling. But in the long term is it killing you?
In 2019 the European Society of Cardiology suggested that just two decades of a sedentary lifestyle is now associated with a 2x greater risk of premature death compared to being physically active. Therefore riding your bike to work really can prolong your life as well as give you some me time.
But rest assured if you tend to opt for the car: the study author Dr Trine Moholdt of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology said: “You can also reduce your risk by taking up physical activity later in life, even if you have not been active before. Thus if you start making these small changes you will improve your overall long term health.
More specifically, the idea that cycling to work fights sedentary issues can be backed up by research from the British Medical Journal in 2017. This study found that cycling to work was associated with 45% lower risk of developing cancer. Then for those with cancer, a 40% lower risk of dying from the disease. Given 1 in 2 of us will develop cancer this surely has to be a hopeful statistic.
Potentially cars therefore really could be killing us in the long run when we solely rely on them for commuting. But hopefully it won’t cause too much harm to use on rainy days.
Cycling to Work: Advantages + Disadvantages
Though cycling to work is a great excuse to get on your bike it does, like all things, come with some disadvantages and setbacks.
Even though it’s very easy, as cyclists, to automatically take sides with riding to work (more time riding bikes is of course always good) it’s not unfortunately always accessible due to a plethora of reasons.
|– Reduces risk of obesity |
– Great way to get daily exercise in
– Reduces stress
– Cheaper alternative
|– Not accessible for all (socioeconomic factors)|
– Lack of accommodating infrastructure in the UK
– Can be dangerous (vulnerable road user)
– Can be difficult finding where to store your bike during work hours
How to Cycle to Work Safely [6 Tips]
As the vulnerable road user I appreciate that sometimes it feels unjust to be the one having to prepare thoroughly in order to keep safe. Especially when doing something as essential as travelling to work, however these helpful tips will hopefully reduce your chances of such a tragedy occurring.
- Invest in Good Quality Lights
Investing in a good quality set of lights that are visible is a great way to keep yourself seen which can help prevent accidents on the road.
- Wear Reflective Gear
Luckily enough most cycling clothing and kit that is targeted at commuters does often offer reflective and high-visibility features which – though not as effective as lights – can help you be seen side on. Side on being an angle that lights don’t always accommodate for due to low flash back
- Asses Your Route
If you know a road on your route to work is particularly dangerous and not bike friendly then reassess other routes could help find a quieter and safer option.
Across Europe the European Road Safety Observatory reported that fatalities were second highest for push bikes in comparison to other forms of transport at junctions, therefore reducing the amount of junctions your commute in incomportates could statistically keep you safe.
- Communicate With Other Road Users
So they know what your next intentions are, such as holding your arm out to the left to signal that you intend on turning left .
Similarly, Paul Robinson from the Bikeability Trust stated that making eye contact works in letting others know that you are about to do something, it also allows for you to ensure that you’ve been seen before maneuvering.
- Wear a helmet
Just like we constantly tell children, we should also wear helmets as adults to ensure our grey matter is protected against brain injury and even death upon impact in collisions
There are specialist helmets from a range of brands that include MIPS (multi impact protection system) which helps to specifically protect our brain from suffering concussion and damage.
- Ride With Others
Riding with a friend or a small group is a great way to ensure that you are seen. If riding double file it also means other road users have to think twice before committing to a dangerous overtake.
Interestingly, Jacobsen (2003) suggests that when more cyclists are on the road, there are fewer collisions, with data indicating that this is the case in The Netherlands, California and Denmark.
Cycling to work is a wonderful and special part of many peoples’ days. As well as a rare portion of time that people have by themselves.
Therefore I believe that even though accidents happen and do occur, strictly speaking the likelihood of an accident is unlikely and constantly declining globally.
So prepare with caution, however don’t let statistics scare you and stop you from doing what you love. They are just there to help to try and make safer roads for all users.