Cycling on the road is becoming increasingly dangerous. Many people who plan on shifting to pedal bikes are now concerned about their safety. In such circumstances, the question arises, “how dangerous is it to cycle on the road?”
Cyclists make up 6% of all road casualties in the UK, with 100 cyclists dying every day. This implies that for every billion kilometers driven; there are 30 bike fatalities as compared to 2 car fatalities. Keeping these numbers in mind, it is fairly dangerous to cycle on the road.
Keep reading below as we discuss the facts in more detail.
- Is Cycling More Dangerous Than Driving?
- Is it Dangerous to Cycle on the Road?
- Cycling Safety Tips
- Are the Risks of Cycling Worthwhile?
- What Makes a Road Dangerous?
- Final Words
Is Cycling More Dangerous Than Driving?
The UK government recorded 684 documented fatalities of passengers in cars, trucks, and other vehicles in Great Britain in 2020. According to the same data, 141 pedal bicycle fatalities were documented.
The report stated that 69,430 documented casualties involved automobiles, goods, and other vehicle occupants. The same survey revealed that pedal bikers were involved in 16,294 documented casualties.
It is obvious that, per planners, we must examine which is more dangerous when looking beyond the raw numbers of incidents that take place on the roads. In these stark numbers, the difference between the number of cars and bikes on the road is not taken into account.
The same UK government research displayed the incident rate per billion miles traveled for various kinds of vehicles between 2010 and 2020 to help clarify matters a little. According to this, there were around 310 fatalities and injuries per billion miles driven by cars and 3,268 fatalities and injuries per billion miles pedaled by bicycles.
In the UK, cyclists are more likely than drivers to be part of an accident that is reported to the police. While this is true, we need to take a closer look. For instance, the number of bicycle-related accidents is decreasing.
Changes in the UK’s bike infrastructure have made certain regions safer, which is one of the reasons why. Before the thinking shifts, the UK had a very long way to go since drivers and cyclists are more at odds than ever over how their roads must be designed.
There is an indication that the number of kilometers cycled is rising, which indicates that there are now more cyclists on the roads. According to one article in the British Medical Journal, there is “safety in numbers,” When a larger number of people are biking, it makes it less probable for a car to hit someone riding.
Then, looking past the collisions and deaths that happen on the road, we consider the hazards that are more long-term. We already know how longer trips in vehicles lead to more passive behaviors that contribute to health problems like obesity.
The remedy for this is to commute by bicycle to work, which will help you meet the World Health Organization’s guideline of 30 minutes of gentle activity each day and get the same result.
Extended periods of driving are associated with a higher risk of smoking and worse psychological health. No doubt, cycling may also be difficult, but generally, cycling is certainly better for your physical and emotional health than driving.
Is it Dangerous to Cycle on the Road?
Here are some stats to answer the question of just how dangerous it is to cycle on the road. Cycling deaths account for more than 100 fatalities on UK roads each year or about 6% of all road fatalities. The death rate is way out of proportion. Only two car drivers die for every billion kilometers driven, while on average, 30 bikers die for every billion kilometers driven.
The great majority of accidents involving cyclists happen on streets with 30 mph speed restrictions. A person hit by a car traveling at 30 mph has a 20% probability of dying. Cars reach 23 meters (or 5.75 car lengths) when braking.
Roads outside of cities and towns are also dangerous for cyclists. Compared to metropolitan regions, rural areas have seen a higher rate of bike fatalities in recent years.
Cycling Safety Tips
In this section, we’ll list some safety tips you can employ to make sure you don’t get into any trouble while cycling.
For more tips on how to cycle safely on the road, watch this video below:
Avoid riding too close to the curb since doing so puts you in danger from slick manhole covers and road debris that can damage your tires. Additionally, it prevents you from moving if a pothole unexpectedly develops in your route.
Making yourself more apparent to other drivers on the road by riding somewhat farther over, roughly where a car’s left-hand tires would be, also gives you the freedom to navigate better if there are any impediments in your path.
In situations where it would be risky for a vehicle to overtake you at that precise moment, it is often best to move toward the middle of the road, known as the “primary position.” For example, if you were approaching a traffic island, there wouldn’t be enough room for a driver to pass you safely, so you should move into the lead position to let them know.
It is crucial for everyone who uses the roadways to remain alert to any possible dangers. Early detection of them allows you to safely react to them. A few of these, like watching out for automobiles backing out of driveways and when entering intersections, are the same as when driving, while others, including potholes, falling branches, and puddles, are particularly important for bicycles.
It is good to shout out or alert you to any risks you see when cycling in a group. More eyes are better than one pair, and everyone will be able to do whatever they need to do to get out of danger.
People who open their car doors onto the road are another danger that is particularly important to bikers. It is better to pull out a bit further onto the road while riding by parked cars so you are not in the way of any doors in case they open abruptly.
When you wish to turn at an intersection, it’s critical to be explicit about your intentions. Look behind you to make sure there are no dangers, then point your hand in the direction you want to turn. If you are uncomfortable looking behind you while pedaling or removing your hand from the handlebars, practice on a cycle lane with no traffic.
When making a right turn, keep in mind that drivers could be inclined to pass you if you go too far over to the right side of the road. It is reasonable to advance to the point where a car’s right-hand tires would be. Once it is safe to do so, make the turn.
This is a smart approach to making sure that other vehicle drivers, such as those at an intersection or pedestrians on the sidewalk, have noticed you. It is advisable to assume that the person hasn’t noticed you if you haven’t received a response from them and to be prepared to steer or stop as necessary.
Filtering Through Traffic
When you filter, you go past sluggish or stopped traffic. It is completely permissible to do this in the UK, and it helps improve traffic flow by allowing motorcyclists and cyclists to continue going while other vehicles cannot.
Contrary to popular belief, it is acceptable to pass automobiles on both the right and left sides of the road. But overtaking on the left is dangerous since you’ll be in the driver’s blind zone and are more likely to be struck if they veer slightly to the left or make a left-hand turn. Except when they are motionless and will continue to remain so until you’ve passed, longer vehicles like buses and trucks shouldn’t be passed on the left.
Make Sure Your Equipment Is Safe
Making sure your cycling equipment is safe should be a prerequisite before you hop on and start cycling. In this section, we describe how you can do that,
Pre-ride safety checks
Before you leave for your ride, it is usually a smart idea to give your bike a thorough inspection. The brakes must be in good functioning order and be capable of stopping you before anything else.
If you check the tire pressure and tighten any loose bolts that are rattling, it won’t take much longer to start your ride, but you’ll be safer and much less likely to have technical problems.
Helmets In the UK, wearing a helmet when riding is not required by law. Fewer people ride bikes when helmets are required, which can be dangerous for cyclists because of the “safety in numbers” effect.
Furthermore, it is advised to use a helmet while mountain riding or road cycling at incredible speeds, and most organized club rides and cycling competitions will demand that you use a helmet.
Between dusk and dawn, you must have a white light on the front of your vehicle and a red light on the back, per the legislation. Although they are not necessary, daytime running lights might help you become more visible to other drivers.
It is a very smart option to have a backup set of lights when riding at night if the first set dies. Since lights may be rather costly, this doesn’t need to be as elaborate as your initial set, but having any form of backup would be preferable to having none at all.
Clothing There is no requirement to wear reflective or high-visibility clothing, similar to daylight lighting. Being visible and being safe are (subtly) separate things, according to some research, while other studies demonstrate that wearing high-visibility clothing has little to no impact on bicycle safety.
The key takeaway is that riding is already a pretty safe activity, so you may dress whatever you choose because your clothing choices don’t significantly affect this.
Are the Risks of Cycling Worthwhile?
Cycling is healthier than driving from a social, psychological, mental health, and general health perspective. As we get used to seeing more bicycles on the road, the risks associated with riding are decreasing.
Regular riding can lower the risk of some major illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, in addition to all the other advantages of outdoor physical activity. Cycling can help improve the signs of some mental health problems, including sadness and anxiety, by elevating mood.
You can keep your weight in check by cycling. Compared to high-impact aerobic exercises like running, cycling is a low-impact activity that is less stressful on your joints.
What Makes a Road Dangerous?
Here are nine factors that might make a road trip more hazardous than usual.
1. Sharp Turns
Vehicles must slow down to a reasonable speed when a road makes a steep curve to take the turn without sliding. Drivers, particularly inexperienced ones, may struggle to determine the proper speed, which might result in collisions. Furthermore, poor road conditions may increase the likelihood of spin-outs.
2. Missing or Unclear Signs
When traffic signs that are supposed to keep drivers informed are unclear or absent, roads also become unsafe. A car could pass through a junction without slowing down, for instance, if a stop sign is obscured by a tree, which could result in a catastrophic collision.
3. Uncleared Ice and Snow
Unclear ice and snow from poor weather may leave the roads slick and unsafe. Tires start to skid when they lose grip on the ice.
4. Worn-Out or Fading Lines
Road markings give drivers guidance on where and when to drive and overtake. They may, however, fade with time and become difficult to see. Additionally, they could be snow- or debris-covered, or wrongly painted. The road is more hazardous when it is not visible because drivers are more likely to estimate their allocated driving areas erroneously.
Have you ever felt a little uneasy while driving along a winding mountain road that runs alongside a rocky cliff? It ought to. The amount of risk is undoubtedly increased by roads with many drops off.
You face the danger of driving over the cliff rather than merely off the road and into some bush if anything really bad happens.
6. Missing Guardrails and Barriers
When barriers and guardrails are absent or destroyed, driving across steep drop-offs becomes more hazardous. When correctly installed, they can stop you from falling, but if they’re broken, your danger increases.
7. Improperly Graded Roads
Using a grader to remove imperfections allows for the restoration of a road’s driving surface. Inadequate grading can result in deteriorated roads, water pools, or an irregular surface that interferes with regular driving.
Potholes are pits in the road’s surface where blown-off sections of pavement have been removed by weather and driving. Multiple things can go wrong if you strike one while driving, including wheels and tires. Even worse, it may result in a mishap.
9. Heavy Traffic Moving Quickly
Finally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists highways among the top 10 most hazardous routes in the United States. Even though they may be roomy and well-kept, they are the sites where you are most likely to get involved in a vehicle accident since they are always clogged with high-speed traffic.
So, is it dangerous to cycle on the road? Well, as of now, it is far more dangerous to ride a bike on the road than a car. As an increasing number of journeys are completed by bicycle, cycling infrastructure will continue to advance.
The perceived risk of danger will decrease as more people use riding as a form of transportation rather than just for fun or fitness. These dangers should decrease when additional networks of bike-friendly roads, pathways, and trails are connected, and other road users become more conscious of bicycles.
I always had a thing for cycling sports and love almost anything that involves bikes and boards. I work part-time as a designer in the tech industry and work on my blogs whenever I can.