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Dutch study finds health benefits of cycling outweigh risks

Increase in life expectancy much greater than impact of air pollution and RTAs

A study by academics at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands has found that the health and other benefits associated with cycling outweigh the potential risks such as being involved in a road traffic accident or exposure to air pollution.

Researchers, whose findings are to be published in the academic journal Environmental Health Perspectives, analysed literature regarding air pollution, road traffic accidents and physical activity, and sought to assess the impact on mortality from all causes of 500,000 people taking up cycling instead of driving for short trips on a daily basis in The Netherlands.

They found that where people had changed their mode of transport from cars to bikes, there were “substantially larger” beneficial effects, with a gain in life expectancy of 3-14 months set against 0.8 – 40 days lost due to air pollution, and 5-9 days lost as a result of road traffic pollution, leading them to conclude that “on average, the estimated health benefits of cycling were substantially larger than the risks relative to car driving for individuals shifting mode of transport.”

They added that benefits to society would be “even larger due to a modest reduction in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and traffic accidents.”
 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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