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Poor road surfaces expose cyclists to vibration-related injuries, research finds

Researchers from Edinburgh Napier University developed a bike to measure vibrations

Poor road surfaces are exposing cyclists to vibration-related injuries more commonly found among people working with vibrating machinery, according to research from Scotland.

Symptoms of the condition, known as Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), include fingers becoming numb as well as having pins and needles, plus aches in the arms resulting from bone and joint damage.

The Herald reports that researchers at Edinburgh Napier University have developed a bike that, equipped with a camera, sensors and computer, measures vibration from road or cycle path surfaces.

Retired surgeon Professor Chris Oliver, a former chair of Cycling UK in Scotland, who co-led the research, will be presenting the findings in Edinburgh next month at the 54th UK Conference on Human Responses to Vibration.

He said: "You can be exposed to vibration from many sources – a lot of industrial equipment can expose it to you. There's vibration from sitting on a bus.

“You can get back pain and damage to the discs in your spine, or if you get vibration through your hand it can damage your nerves in your hand – sometimes permanently.

"One of the things we did at Edinburgh Napier was to develop a bicycle that measures vibration transmitted from the road to your hands.

"We've shown that some road surfaces can cause toxic doses of vibration. The bicycle collects huge amounts of data."

He contrasted the attitudes in many European countries regarding minimising road surface vibration for cyclists with those prevailing here.

"The Dutch have whole books and guides on how to build a smooth road, but we don't have that kind of thing in the United Kingdom at all,” he explained.

"If you phone up Edinburgh City Council and ask how smooth the roads are they'll say 'well, we fix the potholes'. That's not enough.

"We know that some road surfaces around Scotland cause hand-arm vibration syndrome – HAVS – and that's an industrial disease."

A spokeswoman for Cycling Scotland said: “Potholes and uneven surfaces can have an impact on people cycling, in terms of both discomfort and safety, and it will be interesting to see the results from this research.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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