Cycling is dangerous

This page is a draft under construction. It is a widely editable wiki page and should not be assumed to be official Cycling Embassy policy.

Summary of the claim

Cycling on roads in the UK exposes you to more risk of injury or death than other modes of transport, such as driving or walking.

Summary of responses

  1. Statistically, cycling is not dangerous, at least relative to other forms of transport. Indeed, other modes of transport can carry significantly higher risks, for particular groups.
  2. Cycling itself is an intrinsically safe activity. What danger that is involved in cycling is posed by motor traffic, and poor road design that pushes the two modes into conflict. Notably, where safe conditions for cycling are created, as in European countries, the risk of injury or death is substantially lower.

In more detail

According to DfT figures1, the risk of being killed or seriously injured whilst cycling in the UK is about the same as the risk of being killed or seriously injured as a pedestrian, per mile travelled. Recent research by UCL2 found that the risk of death per hour of travel is approximately the same for walking, cycling or driving for men aged between 21 and 49. (This same research found that the risk of death for male drivers aged between 17 and 20 is approximately five times higher than for male cyclists of the same age, per hour of travel).. So in this regard cycling is statistically a safe activity, or at least one that is as approximately as safe as other modes of transport.

Despite this, the most common reason people in the UK cite for not cycling is fear of traffic34. While cycling is a low risk activity, the majority of people do not feel safe while cycling, as this invariably requires mixing with motorised traffic, often with a large speed differential. This (justified) perception of danger is reinforced by a road safety culture which strongly recommends, or indeed insists upon, the wearing of protective equipment (for instance helmets and high-visibility clothing) when cycling, either on the road or during events. This reinforces the perception that cycling is a dangerous activity, as protective equipment is required to participate, even on closed road events.

We would also note that the risk of death or injury while cycling is substantially lower in other countries, which employ techniques to minimise the danger posed by motorised traffic. In the Netherlands, the risk of death while cycling (per hour of travel) is approximately four times lower than in the UK.2 Likewise the risk of any injury is, again, approximately four times lower.5 This comparison is all the more remarkable given that a considerably larger proportion of the amount of cycling in the Netherlands is undertaken by children and the elderly than in the UK – two groups that are particularly vulnerable to injury or death. It serves to demonstrate that cycling itself is not dangerous – it is the conditions that people are frequently forced to cycle in that create the danger.


1 DfT: Passenger Casualty Rates by Mode

2 ‘Exposure-Based, ‘Like-for-Like’ Assessment of Road Safety by Travel Mode Using Routine Health Data’

3 Brake research shows 64% of motorists “Too scared” to cycle in traffic

4 DfT: Barriers to Cycling (Chapter 5)

5 Pucher, J. and Buehler, R. (2008) Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany Transport Reviews, Vol. 28, No. 4, 495–528, July 2008. Available at

Related claims