How safe are our rides?

This article was first published in 2008 based on the club rides for 2007. I have updated it for the twelve months ending September 2013.

I was talking to a distinguished member of the local community recently and discovered that as a youth he was a keen cyclist and Youth Hosteller; but he said he wouldn’t cycle far on our roads now. He ‘has a little place in France’ where he happily pedals around the village without fear but is terrified of the traffic here.

This set me thinking. How far do we go on club rides in a year without ‘traffic damage’ ? As far as I’m aware, in the 15 years in which we have been cycling regularly with the club there have been only three incidents in which cyclists have been in collisions with motor vehicles while on club rides or going to join one – two on club runs and a third while on his way to join the start of the ride. In all cases the cyclists received only minor cuts and bruises and were back cycling again within a few weeks. And all got a new bicycle on the relevant motorist’s insurances.

And how far do we cycle in a year?

Making reasonable assumptions, using data from the 2013 Annual report …

Average riders Mileage Rides Total mileage
Cosham rides 5.4 50 52 14,040
Havant Saturday 14.4 50 49 26,460
Havant Wednesday 22.4 50 50 42,000
Evening pub rides 6.9 20 26 3,588
Sunday morning rides 6.0 30 11 1,980
Easy rides 6.3 20 11 1,386
Tandem rides 8 30 11 2,640
Total 92,094

 Assuming ½ the riders only ride to elevenses and do about ½ the distance.

The calculation is conservative because it doesn't take account of distance people travel to and from the start of the ride.

The circumference of the world is approximately 25,500 miles. This means that as a club, our runs take us the equivalent of 3.61 times round the world at the equator each year.  And only 3 minor collisions with motor vehicles in the last 15 years.  Not a bad record.

Ian Hewitt

2 replies to “How safe are our rides?

  1. So about 1 minor collision per 17 Earth circumlocutions! Pretty safe!

    Not so easy to calculate, but we've undoubtedly avoided many, many more than 3 trips to hospital from the health benefits of regular cycling. I personally lost over a stone with regular cycling, and feel much fitter. I heard you were 20 times more likely to benefit health-wise than lose - does anyone know where that came from, and is it true?

  2. Thanks Ian. Your article is thought provoking and puts into perspective some of the hysteria we often hear about the dangers of cycling on UK roads. It really deserves much wider publicity.

    Of course any accident is undesirable, but nothing in life is risk-free, so risk assessment as you have done here is definitely the way forward. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), 220,000 people in the UK visit hospital due to DIY accidents every year, and that probably doesn't count damage caused by dust and dirt, inhaling carcinogens, etc leading to hospitalisation much later in life.

    Again according to RoSPA 19000 cyclists ended up in hospital in 2012 comprising 118 killed, 322 seriously injured and 15751 slightly injured. It isn't clear how many of these involved motor vehicles. We don't know how popular cycling is compared with DIY, but at less than 1/10 of the number of injuries it doesn't seem outrageously dangerous relatively speaking. For more details see the RoSPA website

    Just for a change I completely agree with everything Wilf says above ;-)

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