Despite incidents highlighting the perils of riding a bike in Britain's cities, young people are much safer cycling than driving, researchers say.
Men aged 17 to 20 are almost five times more likely to be killed or injured driving a car, a study at University College London found.
Researchers examined hospital admissions and deaths in England between 2007 and 2009 for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. Using National Travel Survey data in England for the same time period, they concluded that the health benefits of cycling are much greater than the risk of fatality.
"What we found is that risks were similar for men aged between 21 and 49 for all three modes of transport and for female pedestrians and drivers aged 21 and 69 years," said Dr Jennifer Mindell, the lead author of the study.
"However, we found that for young male cyclists between 17 and 20 years of age, cycling was markedly safer than travelling by car."
Those most at risk when travelling were males aged between 17 and 20 for driving, men aged over 70 for cycling and females aged over 70 for walking. In general, fatality rates were substantially higher for men than for women.
The researchers also compared the UK data with figures from the Netherlands – a nation widely regarded as bike-friendly. They found a similar pattern in both countries, with teenage male cyclists less likely to suffer serious injury or death than those travelling by car.
The research is published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Dr Jennifer Mindell said: "An individual who cycles one hour a day for 40 years would cover about 180,000km, whilst accumulating only a one in 150 chance of fatal injury."