London's Boris Bikes are good for users' health, according to new study; men and over-45s benefit most

Researchers also say pre-launch fears of higher casualty rates among inexperienced riders using the scheme were unfounded

by Simon_MacMichael   February 14, 2014  

London Cycle Hire Scheme Bikes On Docking Station (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpg

London's 10,000 blue 'Boris Bikes' are having a positive effect on the health of the people who use them to get around the capital, according to a new study. Positive health benefits were found to be more pronounced among men and the over-45s than for women or younger people. Researchers also noted that fears when the scheme went live in 2010 that casualty rates would rise due to inexperienced riders taking to hire bikes had proved unfounded.

The study was published in the BMJ and was written by researchers from the University of Cambridge, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and UCL.

They analysed data from each of the 7.6 million trips made on a Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme bike by more than 578,000 users from April 2011 to March 2012, as well as surveys of users of the scheme and separate data related to issues such as Central London air pollution, road traffic incidents and physical activity.

Among the issues that researchers assessed when carrying out the study was which mode of transport people would use if the scheme did not exist, while for casualty figures, a comparison was made between reported incidents involving scheme users, and those for all cyclists in Central London.

Senior author Dr Anna Goodman from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.“When the cycle hire scheme was introduced, there were widespread concerns that increasing the number of inexperienced cyclists in central London would lead to higher injury rates.

“Our findings are reassuring, as we found no evidence of this. On the contrary, our findings suggest that the scheme has benefited the health of Londoners and that cycle hire users are certainly not at higher risk than other cyclists.”

However, the study did find that when comparing the scheme against all casualties in Central London, the benefits were less and disappeared altogether for women, attributed to the higher death rates of female cyclists in the capital following collisions with lorries.

The only Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme user to have died while riding one of the bikes, French student Philippine de Gerin-Ricard, was crushed by a lorry close to Aldgate Underground station in July last year.

The study's authors said that making conditions safer for cyclists and attracting a greater number of older people to use the scheme would make it even more beneficial to health.

Lead author Dr James Woodcock of the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) commented: “If cycling in central London was as safe as in cities in the Netherlands, the health benefits from initiatives like the cycle hire scheme would be far more substantial.

“The Netherlands manages to achieve high levels of cycling with low risks, not by focusing on helmets and hi-vis, but by providing high quality infrastructure that physically protects cyclists from busy, fast moving traffic.”

You can find the full study here.

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Another BMJ study, Deaths of cyclists in London 1985-92: the hazards of road traffic, published in 1994 (http://www.bmj.com/content/308/6943/1534), concluded,
'...heavy goods vehicles are estimated to cause 30 times as many cyclists' deaths as cars and five times as many as buses. Until the factors leading to this excess risk are understood, a ban on heavy goods vehicles in urban areas should be considered.'
Then as now, the largest group of cyclist deaths were caused by lorries turning left.
Think how many lives would have been saved if they had listened 10 years ago -- and will they listen now and do something?

posted by arowland [84 posts]
14th February 2014 - 19:41

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arowland wrote:
Another BMJ study, Deaths of cyclists in London 1985-92: the hazards of road traffic, published in 1994 (http://www.bmj.com/content/308/6943/1534), concluded,
'...heavy goods vehicles are estimated to cause 30 times as many cyclists' deaths as cars and five times as many as buses. Until the factors leading to this excess risk are understood, a ban on heavy goods vehicles in urban areas should be considered.'
Then as now, the largest group of cyclist deaths were caused by lorries turning left.
Think how many lives would have been saved if they had listened 10 years ago -- and will they listen now and do something?

Excuse me, but isn't it time we had some effective delivery of the statutory call on roads authorities to investigate crashes and implement action to reduce their occurrence? Section 39 RTA 1988 Clause 3. It would be a fine piece of transparency if these investigations were also published, as they are for rail crashes.

Just the other day I dug out a paper by HSE and DfT on reducing deaths and injuries which occur when the road is the workplace - that work was taking place nearly 15 years ago and just how far have we moved forward?

One key move might be to stop the use of the euphemism "causing death by" xxx driving. Use any other type of machinery and kill someone and it is either manslaughter or murder depending on the judgement on any intent in the act. Let's stop the tiptoeing around the edge and dump the 'special' case for killing with a motor vehicle and level the playing field.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [481 posts]
19th March 2014 - 17:18

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