A research paper from the University of Westminster published late in 2015 suggests that the faster you go the lower the risk to injury. Does this mean that cycling faster equals less cycling accidents and collisions?
1692 cyclists completed a day long cycling diary around the UK. They were registered according to age and gender, as well as home location. They were asked to fill it out whether they had a few incidents, many or none at all that day. With 60% of those who registered responding, this may suggest that many did not have an incident that day.
An ‘incident’ was registered as something that caused ‘a level of annoyance or fear’. This could be being cut up by a lorry, or a bus passing far too close. As such this research isn’t one of injury or death statistics and stands out by showing the difficulty cyclists have in every day riding. Not every cyclists gets injured every day, but we all have stories of a car passing with just 6 inches to spare!
The study suggested that, “for a given journey length, faster cyclists experienced relatively fewer incidents… a one mile per hour increase in speed is associated with a 9.6% decrease in incident rate per cycled mile.” The paper had a table that suggested for cyclists travelling at less than 8mph they would see nearly 0.5 incidents per mile cycled, as against cyclists travelling at over 12mph who saw 0.15 incidents per mile cycled. Over 10 miles this would be 1 incident for the speed fiend, and 5 for the guy or gal trundling along and not breaking a sweat!
Go like hell and don’t end up there?
The research is somewhat counterintuitive. A judge hearing that you got knocked off your bike while haring it up the road at 25mph between traffic is less likely to be favourable in their judgement towards you than if you were trundling along at a safer speed behind the traffic!
The paper’s discussion said, “This suggests that those unable to keep up with motor traffic may have substantially more near miss experiences on a given journey. Another explanation, given we are talking about overall journey speeds, might be that cyclists jumping red lights might be simultaneously (a) speeding up their journey and (b) reducing near miss risk by reducing interaction with motor vehicles. We do not know, but as avoiding conflict with motor traffic is a reason sometimes given by cyclists themselves for red light jumping, this pathway is also plausible. One other explanation could be that less ‘hardy’ cyclists are particularly sensitive to near misses. Whatever the reason/s, the finding is worrying.”
Aggressive cycling shouldn’t be condoned unless in a safe environment such as a race or on a mountain bike track – away from other road users who may be injured by you hitting them at a high speed.
The importance of this paper is that it looked at cycling through the eyes of the cyclist as opposed to through insurance claims and injuries. Good research can be repeated, and if the high speed / low incident rate is to be proven to any extent, this study needs repeating annually in order to bear out the results long term.