What they don’t tell you about Cycling – You will prolong your life if you live that long

The Times 7 August 2020


Groenewegen used an elbow to “close the door” on Jakobsen

That’s cycling, as Jonathan Vaughters, the former rider who is now head of the EF Pro Cycling team, noted a couple of years ago when he talked about the countless hospital visits, gory medical reports and horrific roadside scenes of his long experience.

“We, the old guard, are so vaccinated against feeling in cycling,” Vaughters wrote in a piece for CyclingTips. “A crash with a concussion, a broken nose and collarbone is seen as lucky. Healthy, really. ‘He’s fine’ will be the response to anyone who asks, and then the follow-up is really how many weeks before he can begin training again.

“These thoughts, words and responses seem truly insane to someone not tenured in the world of bicycle racing. And I guess that’s because they are.”

That’s cycling. We may gawp at the footage but those within the sport have to avoid thinking too deeply about the perilous risks when cyclists are hurtling wheel to wheel at crazy speeds dressed in Lycra.

“That is the great open secret of bike racing — how often and how terribly they crash,” Dan Coyle noted in Lance Armstrong’s War. They crash in sprints and flying down mountain passes, on greasy roundabouts and into bollards and fences and ditches on sun-melted tar.

They break backs and pelvises and particularly collarbones. Never mind road rash and saddle sores, Coyle estimated that there were about five serious injuries per week among the four hundred or so professional cyclists. Over a six-month season, that amounted to a one-in-four chance of time in hospital.

RoSPA Road Safety Fact Sheet November 2017

Cyclist Casualties, 20162 Child (0-15) Adult All* Killed 8 94 102 Seriously injured 309 3,088 3,397 Slightly injured 1,664 13,314 14,978 Total 1,981 16,496 18,477

*All includes casualties where age not recorded

These figures only include cyclists killed or injured in road accidents that were reported to the police. Many cyclist casualties are not reported to the police, even when the cyclist is injured badly enough to be taken to hospital. The figures also exclude cycling accidents that occur away from the road. Although the number of deaths is accurate, there could be two or three times as many seriously injured cyclists and double the number of slightly injured.

<They just don’t know!>

The majority of cyclist casualties are adults, with approximately 10% being children. Cycling accidents increase as children grow older, with 10 to 15 year old riders being more at risk than other age groups, including adults until about the age of 60 years3 . To some extent, this reflects increased cycling as children grow older followed by a switch to motorised transport from the late teens onwards. It also coincides with the age when children attend Secondary school and may start to indicate riskier behaviour.

Males are far more likely to be involved in cycling accidents than females. In 2016, 81% of those injured in a reported road traffic accident were male4 . Almost two thirds of cyclists killed or seriously injured were involved in collisions at, or near, a road junction, with T-junctions being the most commonly involved. Roundabouts are particularly dangerous junctions for cyclists. Not surprisingly, the severity of injuries suffered by cyclists increases with the speed limit, meaning that riders are more likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries on higher speed roads.

Almost half of cyclist deaths occur on rural roads.



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