New research supports the belief that, despite the risk posed by other road users and air pollution, cycling can significantly increase a person's life expectancy.
The authors of a report published in the online journal Environmental Health Perspectives estimated the effects if 500,000 people in The Netherlands used bikes rather than cars for short trips on a daily basis; a shift from car to bike of about 12.5 percent.
The researchers projected a life expectancy gain of 3-14 months against a loss of 0.8-40 days due to exposure to fine dust particles and 5-9 days due to traffic accidents. On average, the benefits of cycling were about nine times greater than the risks.
The team said there would also be benefits to society at large due to a modest reduction in air pollution and traffic accidents.
These figures were for the cycling-friendly Netherlands where cycling is safer than in many countries. Even so, when they looked at the UK, the overall benefits still came out as seven times greater than the risks.
A report from Cycling England in 2007 – Cycling and Health. What’s the evidence? – came to a similar conclusion, saying: “There are risks involved in cycling but these are outweighed by the health benefits by a factor of around 20:1.”