How safe is cycling?
Bottom line – there is no good data. Think about it – think about how much you cycle. Anyone recording those miles? So how can anyone analyze injuries per mile. They cant. On the one hand, injuries go under reported – car traffic accidents have official reports – injured cyclists go home and wash up. On the other hand, the miles ridden go vastly under reported. We don’t know how many people ride. We don’t know how far they ride. And we don’t know injuries. Basically we have some ad hoc reports. Making matters worse, the data that is used compares miles traveled – as opposed to time traveled. Compare miles traveled for bike versus car and you are going to get one answer – compare hours traveled for bike versus car and you are going to get another.
I have ridden a bicycle all my life. When I was a teenager, I commuted to church – and I went on bike tours. I commuted to college and graduate school. And I have biked to work since my first job. I have been in one accident. I have been in multiple car accidents in my life (not of my doing, not with me driving).
How Safe is Cycling. Its Hard to Say. NYT 2013 (“Although many cyclists have strong opinions on the safety of their sport, the answer is that no one really knows how safe it is, or whether its safety has changed over the years. It’s not that there is a lack of data. Instead, it is that the data are inadequate to answer the questions. No one has good statistics, for example, on crashes per mile ridden. Nor do the data distinguish road cycling on a fast, light, bike with thin tires from mountain biking down dirt paths filled with obstacles or recreational cycling on what the industry calls a comfort bike. Yet they are very different sports.”)
Is Cycling Safe? Momentum 2014 (“or example, in 2012 in the US, 726 cyclists were killed in traffic crashes.1 But 22,912 motor vehicle occupants (including 39 bus occupants) were also killed, as were 4,957 motorcyclists and 4,743 pedestrians.1 Traffic deaths in 2011 in Canada (with about one-ninth the US population) included 51 cyclists, 1,420 vehicle occupants, 168 motorcyclists, and 315 pedestrians.2”)
How Safe is Cycling, BBC 2014 (while this article compares deaths per mile between bicycles and cars, it is useful to note the cause of fatalities of cyclists: that would be cars. In other words, a heavy portion of bicycle traffic in DC is on trails and separate bike lanes. Get away from the cars and you get away from the problem).
Bicycling: The Safest Form of Transportation, Mr Money Mustache 2013 (“Under even the most pessimistic of assumptions: Net effect of driving a car at 65mph for one hour: Dying 20 minutes sooner. (18 seconds of life lost per mile) Net effect of riding a bike at 12mph for one hour: Living 2 hours and 36 minutes longer(about 13 minutes of life gained per mile)”)
30 Reasons to Take Up Cycling, BikeRadar 2014 (“according to research from the University of North Carolina, people who cycle for 30 minutes, ﬁve days a week take about half as many sick days as couch potatoes.”)
Benefits of Cycling and Walking Outweighs Harms, BBC 2016 (“regular exercise reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and several cancers.”)
How Cycling Makes You Smarter and Happier, Bicycling 2014 (“Arthur Kramer, PhD, a neuroscientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Our research finds that after only three months, people who exercised had the brain volume of those three years younger," says Kramer, referring to a study that examined the brains of 59 sedentary volunteers between the ages of 60 and 79 who either did an exercise program or were inactive for six months. A bigger, more connected brain simply works better. "Adults whoexercise display sharper memory skills, higher concentration levels, more fluid thinking, and greater problem-solving ability than those who are sedentary," says Kramer.”)
Is Cycling Safe? Yes, much more than we thought, LinkedIn (“Unfortunately, the draft guidance on Active Travel makes some woefully inaccurate estimates about fatality rates for cycling and walking. The source is pre-2006 census data, which even the author admits is vastly inaccurate. ”)
There’s Safety in Numbers for Cyclists, GRIST 2010 (“Research has been steadily showing, actually, that the more people are out there riding bicycles, the safer bicycling becomes. As ridership goes up, crash rates stay flat. It’s happening in Portland (see page 11 of this report [PDF]). It’s happening in New York City.” – basically, better infrastructure and cars learning to look for cyclists)
I choose safety as a major characteristic of where I commute and where I ride. I choose not to ride with cars. DC has GREAT bicycle infrastructure.