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J R Soc Med. 2007 January; 100(1): 8.
PMCID: PMC1761669

THE LANGUAGE OF HEALTH CARE

Cycling is not more dangerous than walking

Sonkin et al.1 focused on fatality rates per mile travelled in comparing risk to children walking, cycling and being driven. Fatality rates per mile travelled for children aged 0-14 years were 30 times greater for pedestrians and 50 times greater for cyclists than for those carried in cars. Walking and cycling appear very dangerous, cycling especially so, whereas being driven is safe.

Let us take the 0.55 deaths per 10 million miles for child cyclists: what kind of a risk is this in everyday terms? Suppose an individual cycled 100 000 miles in their life, all at the fatality rate of a child cyclist. The accumulated lifetime risk of death would be less than 0.5%. This does not appear to be much of a risk amongst all the other hazards of life. It is a good deal lower than the lifetime risk of driving in most industrialized countries—and driving does not benefit health as cycling does. Risk comparisons should be based on hourly risk and annual risk. This will account for the great disparity in mobility between humanpowered and mechanised travel

Most child cyclists are boys, while child pedestrians are split evenly between girls and boys.2 Almost 90% of child cyclist deaths are boys.3 The higher fatality rate for cyclists vis-à-vis pedestrians is due to the preponderance of boy cyclists. It does not mean that cycling is much more dangerous than walking for children.

Notes

Competing interests None declared.

References

1. Sonkin B, Edwards P, Roberts I, Green J. Walking and cycling and transport safety: an analysis of child road deaths. J R Soc Med 2006;99: 402-5 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Department for Transport. The National Travel Survey 2005. Available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_control/documents/contentservertemplate/dft_index.hcst?n=17003&l=4
3. DiGiuseppi C, Leah L, Roberts I. Influence of travel patterns on mortality from injury among teenagers in England and Wales 1985-95: a trend analysis. BMJ 1998;316: 904-5 [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are provided here courtesy of Royal Society of Medicine Press