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How dangerous is cycling?(24 posts)

How dangerous is cycling?Continental
May 5, 2003 9:59 AM
Are there any good sources of information on bicycling injury and death rates? I may be getting a distorted view from all the reports on this board, but it seems pretty bad. I won't ride a motorcycle because it's too dangerous. Is a bicycle any better? I'm careful about picking the time and place to ride, but it only takes one inattentive driver to kill or maim me.
re: How dangerous is cycling?CARBON110
May 5, 2003 10:05 AM
12% of injurys are sustained by pedestrians or cyclists nation wide. 12% I was told that at my B-day party this weekend by the owner of Ashevilles premier bike shop. I'm not sure if that included just automobile injurys
Life is dangerousMR_GRUMPY
May 5, 2003 10:08 AM
I think that I'm going to stay inside for the rest of my life.
Not any more than most other activities...biknben
May 5, 2003 10:10 AM
I can't direct you to any figures or stats. Many of these resource get distorted because they are very vague anyway.

I'm still sore from an accident last week but I was back on the bike two days later. Yes...It is something I'm concerned about but it isn't gonna keep me off the bike.

I consider certain aspects of a road before I will ride on it. Road width, pavement condition, and traffic come to mind. If two of the three are unfavorable, I'll look for an alternative. If it can't be avoided I put the hammer down so I don't have to spend any more time on it than necessary.
more dangerous than golf or bowling? I think not! nmeschelon
May 5, 2003 10:14 AM
Very dangerous activities................MR_GRUMPY
May 5, 2003 10:29 AM
How many golfers die every year from heart attacks or from being hit by lightening? How many bowlers die while driving home drunk ?
Golfing is the most deadly sportmtncranker
May 5, 2003 11:42 AM
More people die annually playing golf than any other sport. Read a scientific study about it a couple years ago. Seems the average age and physical condition of the participants, combined with a momentary stress on the heart that the swing causes, results in a high number of deaths by cardiac arrest on the fairways.

Personally, I found it grimly humorous.....
Impossible to answer very specificallycory
May 5, 2003 10:10 AM
I've had one bad fall (separated shoulder) and probably a couple of dozen inconsquential ones in 30 years, but I have friends who average a fall every year or two. One is still recovering from a femur he broke in February of 2002, and another, a successful racer since the early '70s, needed more than a year of therapy to walk without a limp after a spinal fracture.
Obviously it's worth the risk to US, or we wouldn't still be riding. As you've already noted, you can minimize the danger by picking your time and place and by riding in groups that draw attention, but as you've also noted, you can't eliminate the chance that some drunk or kid searching for a CD will do you in. Several years ago I came on a scene in California about 10 minutes after a girl reaching for a tape killed FOUR experienced, adult cyclists. That stuck with me for a long time (I think she got off with just some public service, too--after all, she didn't MEAN to do it...).
Generally I ride happily and comfortably and try to stay away from places where the risk seems high. Occasionally, though--once or twice a summer--I get that eerie, there's-an-SUV-aimed-at-ME feeling. So far it's passed in a couple of minutes and I just ride on.
May 5, 2003 4:42 PM
It's not that they're aimed at you... it's just that distracted drivers in big vehicles do more damage.

On my commute tonight an SUV pulled into oncoming traffic. This dim bulb was talking on a cell phone instead of focusing on the drive. Missed'em by less than 2 feet and would have broadsided them without my ABS. This particular driver, I'm sure, remains oblivious to the incident. The only evidence is bits of my tire on the road and that of the car in the lane adjacent to mine.
lately, I prefer mountain bikinggtx
May 5, 2003 10:21 AM
which is arguably more dangerous than road riding, but at least if I crash I can only blame myself. However, I recently bought life insurance, and the underwriters don't consider cycling to be dangerous. Most people have one or two nasty spills in their first years of riding, but then they learn. You can never rule out random accidents, but that's true of just about anything.
re: How dangerous is cycling?seamus
May 5, 2003 10:21 AM
This bothers me a lot too. After 15 years of road riding, I've had one minor car incident a long time ago and a lot of close calls. Often times I ride off road now, so at least I don't have to worry about cars as much.

I've talked to lots of other experienced riders to see how they deal with it, and it seems like most just don't worry about it or at least are comfortable with the risks. One thing that helps is (sorry guys) avoid forums like these, because they'll open your eyes to all the tragedies out there, and give you a pretty messed up view of things.

Bottom line, cycling is dangerous, but not as dangerous as driving, or sitting on the couch. I'm still road riding, but I pick my roads more carefully, check my shoulder constantly and pray, but it's still hard.

Some days, I just ride off road instead. I know I can get hurt bad there too, but I feel like I'm a bit more in control.
Offroad is dangerous, tooBQ
May 5, 2003 4:35 PM
Some people in my part of the world (Columbus OH) took a ride on a rails-to-trails route here 1-2 years ago. While riding, a tree fell onto one of the bikers causing a permanent cripling injury.

I'm not trying to scare anyone, just passing along a true story. Just because it's paved and called a bike path doesn't mean that it's maintained or safe.

Be careful out there!
I've seen a man killed on a golf coursePaulCL
May 5, 2003 11:06 AM
I've seen a surgeon hit his eye with a racquetball racquet (he was too 'tough' to wear eyeguards). The golfer was hit with someone's errant drive, threw a pulmonary embolism and died on the course.

My point is that all sports are dangerous to some degree. The "problem" with our sport is that the injuries usually come at high speed and due to cars. Like motorcyclists, if we are hit by cars, we are at a big disadvantage (that's today's understatement for me). In cycling, when we get hurt, we often get hurt seriously or at least, that road rash is really ugly.

My golfer friends have bad backs. My skiing friends bad knees. Runners the knee thing plus sore feet. Is our sport dangerous, to some extent yes.
see www.dallasnews.comLeroy
May 5, 2003 11:13 AM
story about a cyclist hit by a school bus' mirror and killed. Driver charged with failure to stop and render aid, but the cyclist is still dead. Maybe if he'd been on a motorcycle he'd a made it ok? Life is dangerous.
don't ride where cars are going faster than you.colker
May 5, 2003 11:41 AM
commute a lot and slow traffic is where i feel safe. whenever the speeds rise, the occasional inattentive driver becomes very dangerous to you.
May 5, 2003 11:45 AM
Have you ever been in a good old fashioned car accident?

I have been in several.

Of those accidents, NONE involved any injury. I have hit two deer (separate occasions), been a passenger twice in cars that were rear ended (at relatively slow city speeds), knocked over a light pole on an icy freeway (much damage to the car, but still drove away), was side swiped on two separate freeway accidents when other drivers didn't change lanes properly, and had my car hit in three hit and runs while parked "on the street" in the city. Never was I at fault, never had an injury.

Contrast this to today's front page (local) news story about of five fatality car accident.

My point is, despite all the "horror stories" regarding accidents, most are minor, low speed situations, or a case of "going down" and sliding across the pavement and escaping with some road rash and a scratched skewer and pedal.

I was hit by a car riding my bike last year, and only "suffered" road rash. I remember thinking, "this isn't so bad."

A tiny fraction of all cycling accidents results in long-term injuries.

I will contrast this with motorcycles: and I do still have a MC license. Motorcycles travel at much higher speeds than bikes. There are those that might argue that motorcycles also attract "risk takers" with an "anti-social predisposition" to a certain degree (certainly not ALL motorcyclists), but according to some psychiatrists I work with that I was discussing the correlation between motorcycle accidents and TBI (traumatic brain injury).

Anyway, you take a young male who perceives himself to be "immortal" who is riding helmetless and rather recklessly, and the odds are much higher that he will have an accident. The other factors related to TBI are falls and fights- usually related to chemical use and anti-social/aggressive behaviors. The thinking is, their personalties contribute to the likelihood of having a serious accident.

Most cyclists, on the other hand, arguably have "healthier" motives behind their riding- maybe have a higher sense of self-preservation?

Statistics be damned! Cycling keeps most of us young and healthy.
You can mitigate car accident injuries thoughkenyee
May 5, 2003 7:57 PM
Buy a car w/ a reputation for safety (Volvo/MB) and your injury risk drops significantly. You can't do anything similiar w/ biking (though MTB'ers have body armor now) so the analogy doesn't work that well...

Ride at a speed you're willing to crash at and try to avoid being near things that are several times heavier than you (that includes deer and motorcycles :-)
Go look at "Effective Cycling" by John Forester.SnowBlind
May 5, 2003 11:53 AM
He shows the stats broken down by who, when and why.
For the average club cyclist or racer it goes something like this:
17% Cyclist vrs cars.
17% Cyclist vrs cyclist.

and the rest were pretty much road hazards and cyclist error. Accident rate is about 1 accident per 10,000 miles.
The rate for casual riders (pedestrians on bikes, < 500 miles a year) is 1 in 750 miles.

The net net of what he is getting at is that the most dangrous person while you are out riding is yourself.
Most accendents are cause by the cyclist NOT OBEYING THE RULES OF THE ROAD. The worst offense is [pedestrians on bikes] riding against traffic, and they are the single largest cause of hurting themselves and other cyclists.

The one thing we are most afraid of, getting hit from behind, is the least likely to happen, about 0.2% percent of the time.
Is riding safe? For the skilled and wary, not any more than any other sport.
For unskilled and reckless, pretty damn dangerous.
One last stat: MUT and bike trails are 2.6 times as dangerous as the roads.
Hey, everybody has to die sometime....MR_GRUMPY
May 5, 2003 11:58 AM
Are you afraid to drive your car? Over 50,000 are killed every year. If you are afraid to ride your bike, please don't. Your fear might cause you to fall off your bike and cause another ride to crash.
re: How dangerous is cycling?Zyzbot
May 5, 2003 12:31 PM
From the CDC site:

2000 United States Unintentional InjuriesAll Ages, All Races, Both SexesTotal Deaths: 97,900Cause of Death

Numberof Deaths Percentage of Deaths
MV Traffic 41,994 42.9%
Fall 13,322 13.6%
Poisoning 12,757 13.0%
Unspecified 6,673 6.8%
Suffocation 5,648 5.8%
Fire/burn 3,487 3.6%
Drowning 3,482 3.6%
Natural/ Environment 1,643 1.7%
Other Transport 1,413 1.4%
Other Land Transport 1,412 1.4%
Pedestrian, Other 1,272 1.3%
Other Spec., class 1,238 1.3%
Struck by or Against 938 1.0%
Other Spec., NECN 903 0.9%
Firearm 776 0.8%
Machinery 676 0.7%
Pedal cyclist, Other 168 0.2%
Cut/pierce 85 0.1%
Overexertion 13 0.0%

Total Deaths 97,900
that sums it all up then - more dangerous to walk !!!! nmclimbo
May 5, 2003 1:02 PM
stuff happens.kjr39
May 5, 2003 5:21 PM
Either stay at home and worry about it or go out and live life. For me, I'm going to enjoy life (or die trying.) :)
It depends mostly on the rider..LinuxDude
May 6, 2003 4:00 AM
In the past 7 years that I have been bicycle commuting here in NYC, I have had only one accident that resulted in minor injury (minor rash and a few bruises). In that incident I was doored while trying to lead a bunch of inexperienced riders behind me and I was riding a bike that didn't have reliable brakes. In my experience it is way better to ride alone than to be riding with a bunch of inexperienced cyclists or.

the other important thing is to be extremely alert while on the road and ride very defensively. be assertive and decisive, because the minute you get lazy or hesitant, that's when the accident occurs. Whenever I?ve had some close calls it's been because of lack of confidence at that moment.

In my experience, more upright bikes (such as mtbs and hybrids) are general safer and more suitable for urban riding.

I find this site to be extremely useful for becoming a safer rider:
A must read for all cyclists
re: How dangerous is cycling?mhinman
May 6, 2003 4:39 AM
Here is some interesting data, that break down the risk based on the amount of time spent on the activity. Notice that cars are almost twice as deadly. Notice also that living is also very dangerous.

Activity pr millionhrs
-------- --------------
Skydiving 128.71
General Aviation 15.58
On-road Motorcycling 8.80
Scuba Diving 1.98
Living (all causes of death) 1.53
Swimming 1.07
Snowmobiling .88
Passenger cars .47
Water skiing .28
Bicycling .26
Flying (scheduled domestic airlines) .15
Hunting .08
Cosmic Radiation from transcontinental flights .035
Home Living (active) .027
Traveling in a School Bus .022
Passenger Car Post-collision fire .017
Home Living, active & passive (sleeping) .014
Residential Fire .003

Compiled by Failure Analysis Associates, Inc. (Design News, 10-4-93)

Here is where I found the article