Cyclo-therapy: 'You're at much greater risk if you drive or walk, than if you cycle'
Saturday 16 April 2011
As I type this in an airless office, people in short sleeves and sunglasses are frolicking among daffodils and buying their first ice-creams as they enjoy weather that is, I'll be told in tomorrow's papers (alongside photos of young women on Brighton beach), "Hotter Than Marbella!".
The turning of the seasons also brings with it a new fleet of cyclists. But there are still would-be riders who believe taking to the city streets on two wheels is a shortcut to an early grave. The air of fear seems to be thicker this year. In London, a campaign is growing against the menace of lorries, which cause a disproportionate number of cyclist deaths. They'll become deadlier still if the Government passes new plans for longer trailers. Meanwhile, a spreading rash of potholes is throwing us off-course – or into a ditch.
It gets scarier still when people we know come a cropper. A colleague on the business desk has been in hospital for weeks after a horrendous encounter with an oil tanker.
It's enough to make anyone reach for the car keys or stick to the pavement but, what fear and statistics mask (the latest Government figures show a slight rise in deaths and injuries among cyclists) is that you're at much greater risk if you drive or walk. Several studies reveal that, per mile travelled, riding is safer. Injury rates are rising, but not as fast as the number of riders.
So cycling is safe and getting safer still, although that will hardly comfort my colleague or the families of the dozen or so cyclists who, for example, die in the capital each year. But while much needs to be done to bring that number down, there is a greater risk to the nation's health if fear pushes us off our bikes.
Meanwhile, there is a lot riders can do to avoid becoming the wrong kind of statistic. My top tip: show your face. Positioning on the road is crucial (the kerb is not your friend) and if a driver sees your face he or she is much more likely to take care around you. It's important to be able to look over your shoulder frequently without veering off-course. And always stay as far away from lorries as you can.
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