The perils of pedalling
Is cycling healthy or harmful?
Spurred on by wins in the Olympics and Tour de France, cycling’s popularity in the United Kingdom is ever increasing; in 2010, 1.3 million more of us took to our saddles.1 For doctors and patients alike, cycling’s image is a healthy one. Aerobic exercise is beneficial for cardiovascular health, and regularly cycling to work is associated with less time off sick,2 suggesting a positive overall impact on health.
Yet cycling is not without risks. In 2011, 107 cyclists lost their lives on Britain’s roads.3 A further 19 108 were injured. Of those who died, 75% had a major head injury. Overall, about 40% of all cycling injuries are to the head.4 Traumatic brain injury has a notoriously poor prognosis, and in high income countries it is the biggest cause of death and disability among those aged under 45.5
According to 2011 data from the UK,3 around 82% of fatalities are the