They’ve been at the centre of several debates around funding, road behaviour and safety, but new research published today has shown that the health benefits to those who have used the London’s so-called Boris Bikes outweigh potential negative impacts from injuries and breathing in air pollution.
The study, conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine alongside researchers from the Medical Research Council and University College London, used data from every journey made using the cycle hire scheme in a one year period. They analysed it alongside various other data including surveys and cycle accident rates in the capital, to give an overall picture of the benefit versus the risk of using the bikes.
The study found that health benefits exceeded associated risks of using the scheme in all age groups; however, the potential benefits were more pronounced for cyclists over the age of 45 despite the fact fewer of this group take to this two-wheeled mode of transport. The benefits were greater in this group as conditions such as cancer and heart disease, which are linked to inactivity, tend to affect older people more.
Senior author, Dr Anna Goodman from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said:
“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.”
Interestingly, the report also found that if London’s roads were more cycle-friendly like they are in Holland – where there is a greater emphasis on safer infrastructure rather than helmets and hi-vis –then health effects would be more substantial due to a decreased accident rate. Impetus enough for the Mayor to speed up his introduction of the ‘Dutch infrastructure’ he promised not so long ago.
The full text of the study is available for free online, should you wish to check the methodology.
Image by Jeremy Hughes from the Londonist Flickr Pool