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Policy statement


Public health hampered by false perception of cycling risk

According to the Transport & Health Study Group (T&HSG) - the principal UK health organisation concerned with transport - "public health advances are being hampered by a false perception of cycling as a relatively hazardous mode of travel." The T&HSG has recently completed a major study of the links between daily travel, public health and road safety.

Dr Stephen Watkins, chair of the T&HSG, says that:
"Proper assessment shows that the actual risks of cycling are low: indeed, young people are generally safer on bikes than driving and society as a whole is far safer if young people are encouraged to cycle. The risks are further reduced if more people take up cycling, as there is a 'safety in numbers' effect. Evidence shows that enforced laws compelling helmet use deter people from cycling and increase risk for cyclists. The health benefits of cycling rather than driving every day are many times greater than any increase in injury risk. However, in Australia and New Zealand, permanent reductions in cycling to school and work followed enforced helmet legislation."

Dr Watkins was responding to the possibility of a helmet law in Northern Ireland, which the T&HSG strongly opposes. He continues: "While we understand the concerns behind the proposed Bill, it is not justified by the evidence. The two approaches that will make cycling safer are reducing speed limits on residential streets, and encouraging more people to cycle."

Tue 22 Mar 2011

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