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Policy statement

Injuries to cyclists in the Netherlands

Casualties in context

It is sometimes claimed that cycling is less safe in the Netherlands than in some other countries because the country has a high number of injuries. However, it also has a very high amount of cycling. The risk per cyclist is therefore lower than elsewhere.

Cycling fatalities per 100 million trips

Netherlands Germany USA
1.6 8.2 21

Source: Pucher and Dijkstra, 2003

Cycling fatalities per 100 million km travelled

Netherlands Germany USA
2.0 3.2 7.2

Source: Pucher and Dijkstra, 2003

Helmet wearers feature disproportionately among hospital casualties

Helmet wearing in the Netherlands is very uncommon and generally agreed to be less than 1% of all cyclists. However, helmeted cyclists feature disproportionately in casualties going to Dutch hospitals. According to Government data, 13% of injured cyclists wear helmets (Rijkswaterstaat, 2008). Of the helmet wearers, 50% ride mountain bikes and 46% ride sports bikes.

It is difficult to discern whether the much higher injury rate of helmeted cyclists is because cyclists who are more risk-prone or risk-taking are more likely to wear helmets, or whether wearing a helmet makes someone more risk-prone or prone to take risks. However, given the strong association between helmet wearing and riding mountain or sports bikes, it seems more likely that it's cyclists in risk-taking situations who choose to wear helmets. But they may also feel able to take more risks if wearing a helmet – an example of risk compensation (Wiki, 3).


Pucher and Dijkstra, 2003

Pucher J, Dijkstra L, 2003. Promoting safe walking and cycling to improve public health: lessons from the Netherlands and Germany. American Journal of Public Health 2003;93(9):1509-1516.

Rijkswaterstaat, 2008

Ormel W, Wolt KK, den Hertog P, . Enkelvoudige fietsongevallen. Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat, 2008.

Wiki, 3

Risk compensation. An explanation of the mechanism whereby safety equipment can sometimes lead to people acting less safely .

See also