Cycling champions

Cherry Allan wants physio staff to encourage their patients to take up cycling.

Cycling UK has championed cycling for well over a century for all sorts of reasons, but not least because it’s good, convenient exercise. It’s particularly easy to fit into the daily routine because it doubles up as transport to work, school or shops and so on. No need for costly, time-consuming visits to the gym, in other words.
For anyone who’s put off cycling because it looks dangerous, it’s worth noting that the health benefits far outweigh the injury risks – by anything from 13:1 and an impressive 415:1, according to various studies. Cycling helps people meet the recommended physical activity guidelines, while research shows that it reduces the risk of many life-threatening conditions, including heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
It goes without saying, therefore, that more people cycling could spell enormous savings for the NHS and the economy. Indeed, academics have calculated that, in the Netherlands (where 27 per cent of trips are cycled), cycling prevents about 6,500 deaths each year and adds half a year to life expectancy. These health benefits correspond to more than three per cent of the Dutch gross domestic product.
We know too that, combined with high-quality provision, the ‘safety in numbers’ effect applies to cycling – it gets safer the more cyclists there are. Also, unlike driving, cycling causes negligible harm to others, either through road injuries or pollution, so it’s a healthy option not just for cyclists, but for everyone else too.
Cycling conditions are by no means perfect, though, and it’s clear that many people are too worried to get on their bikes. As placing the onus solely on cyclists to protect themselves simply doesn’t address the risks they face at source, we at Cycling UK put our campaigning energy into calling for lower traffic volume and speeds, along with tackling bad driving behaviour, the unfriendly design of many roads and junctions, and the disproportionate threat of lorries.
Physiotherapy staff and others working in healthcare are in a good position to ‘prescribe’ cycling to the people in their care, so please do encourage it.
As far as helmets are concerned, Cycling UK is opposed to compulsion and promotion. Our briefing on helmets explains why. For more information visit our website here.  
  • Cherry Allan is Cycling UK’s campaigns and policy information co-ordinator 

Frontline editor's note of 4 August 2016: The article by Cherry Allan does not necessarily reflect the views of CSP members on cycle-helmet use. A motion passed by the CSP annual representative conference in 2016 called on the society to work with relevant stakeholders and community groups to promote cycling safety and lead a campaign for the mandatory wearing of safety helmets for all ages.

More information

For more on the health benefits of cycling, see the Cycling UK briefing here. 
Cherry Allan Cycling UK’s campaigns and policy information co-ordinator

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