In this fact page we will cover:
- Why cycling is good for our health and good for the planet
- Why cyclists are vulnerable on roads
- How cyclists can keep themselves safe
- Road rules for cyclists
- How drivers can make roads safer for cyclists
Cycling is one of the healthiest, cheapest and most environmentally friendly forms of transport available, with the benefits to public health, congestion and the economy widely acknowledged.
- Cycling is an excellent form of exercise and can help with both weight loss and physical fitness. It also reduces the risk of serious conditions like diabetes and heart disease later in life, and can contribute to higher overall personal wellbeing.
- Cycling can boost brain power, by increasing blood flow to the brain by around 30–40%. Even cyclists in busy cities report better lung health. Riders can experience five times lower pollution levels than drivers, because air is more able to circulate around them when they are riding, compared with being stuck in a vehicle. Cyclists who use quieter routes away from busy traffic see even greater benefits.
- Cycling is better for the environment than driving. More than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions are produced by cars and other vehicles, whereas cycling is generally considered to be a zero-emissions form of transport. Even when emissions from production and maintenance of bikes are taken into account, the emissions associated with cycling are significantly lower.
- Choosing to ride a bike instead of driving can help to reduce congestion in urban areas – almost four in ten people acknowledge that many of the two-mile journeys they currently make in a car could instead be made by bike.
- High numbers of cyclists bring benefits to the local economy. For every square metre of cycle parking in a town, consumers spend five times more in local shops compared with the same area of car parking. Property values rise if motorised traffic is reduced, and there are financial benefits for employers too.
- Organisations that facilitate cycling through initiatives like cycle to work schemes, see lower staff turnover and absenteeism and increased positivity, with regular cyclists taking on average one fewer sick day per year.
Risks for cyclists
Every year, more than 100 cyclists die on UK roads, meaning they make up around 6% of all road deaths.
The fatality rate is disproportionately high – on average, 30 cyclists die for every billion miles travelled, compared with just two car drivers.
The vast majority of cyclist casualties are from incidents on roads with 30mph speed limits. At 30mph, cars travel an average of 23 metres (or 5.75 car lengths) before stopping, and anyone hit by a car travelling at 30mph has a 20% chance of dying.
Cyclists are also vulnerable on roads outside towns and cities. In recent years, more cyclists have been killed in collisions in rural areas, in comparison with urban areas.
Junctions are a dangerous hotspot for cyclists
Collisions often occur because drivers fail to look properly. Around 45% of all cyclist deaths occur at or near junctions, with more than half of these recorded at T-junctions.
Just under a third of cyclist deaths happen at roundabouts, mini-roundabouts and crossroads.
Safer roads for cyclists
Improving cycling infrastructure is a key way of making roads safer for cycling. The best cycle networks join together places where people live and work, as well as giving access to public transport.
The safest routes for cyclists are where cyclists are physically separated from motor traffic. Paths that are shared between pedestrians and cyclists can be a safe option so long as they are properly designed, and wide enough for both pedestrians and cyclists to use comfortably.
On-road cycle lanes, where there is no physical separation between cyclists and fast-moving traffic need to be designed carefully, alongside other measures to reduce risks and hazards for cyclists, such as junction improvements. Transitioning from a cycle path and entering traffic can be dangerous, and any design has to take this into account.
Many people feel that it is too dangerous to cycle on roads
More than three-quarters of drivers report never or very rarely cycling on single-carriageway A-roads because of the risks involved, particularly the lack of safe, segregated spaces for cyclists.
Around 53% say they would be more likely to cycle on these roads if there were dedicated cycle paths separated entirely from the traffic.
How to stay as safe as possible when travelling by bike
If you aren’t a confident cyclist, or don’t have much experience on a
bike, it’s a good idea to consider cycle training.
Training can help give you the skills and confidence you need to cycle safely on roads.
Training is for all ages and abilities and covers topics from balance and control to planning independent journeys on busier roads.
Schools can arrange for professional trainers to deliver courses to pupils and parents.
The organisations listed here can provide information to help you find the safest local cycling routes, as well as point you to kit and training and link you up with other cyclists.
Wear a helmet
Brake strongly recommends that cyclists of all ages and levels of experience to wear a helmet. A helmet won’t offer you complete protection, and sadly helmets don’t prevent crashes happening in the first place. But wearing a good quality, well-fitted cycle helmet does help to protect your brain in some types of crashes or if you fall off your bike and hit your head.
Research shows that wearing a helmet reduces your chances of suffering fatal or serious brain injuries in a crash. If you wear a helmet, always make sure you fit it according to the instructions and make sure it isn’t damaged.
Prepare your bike
It’s worth learning the basics of bicycle maintenance if you want to begin cycling. Whether your bike is new, secondhand, or it’s been sat in your garage gathering dust, give it a thorough check before you start using it. Familiarising yourself with the mechanics will come in handy if you run into a problem while out cycling.
Remember, it is illegal to cycle at night without lights, so if you are making a journey in the dark, or there is any chance you might be caught out as the sun goes down, test your lights before setting off. You must have a white light at the front, a red light at the back, red reflectors at the back and amber reflectors on the pedals.
Brake recommends that anyone who cycles to work uses safe, off-road
or segregated cycle paths for as much of the journey as possible but we know this isn’t always possible. Cycling UK offers a guide to cycle routes that
can help you to find safer places to cycle. If your commute is too far
to cycle the whole way, you could take the train and cycle the journey
to and from the station.
You could also check if your employer is signed up for the government’s cycle to work initiative, which allows you to purchase a new bike tax-free and pay monthly straight from your salary. If your employer hasn’t signed up, direct the relevant member of staff to details of benefits to employers of the initiative, and encourage them to sign up.
Using bicycles at work is becoming increasingly common in some professions. If you are required to cycle as part of your job, ensure your employer has a robust safe cycling policy, covering: training; clothing; lighting; risk assessment of routes; pre-ride inspections; punctures; storage; theft; and insurance. If they don’t have a policy, talk to your manager.