Readers who’ve read as far back as the first post on this blog – posted in the now long-ago days of January 20 – may recall that I fretted about my prospects of one day feeling my life slipping away on some south London road because of the foolish bravado of some BMW driver. It was melodramatic, I admit – I started feeling more secure on the roads shortly afterwards, when I replaced my worn Schwalbe Marathon Pluses with new, better-gripping ones.
But I now realise I should have been thinking just as hard about the prospect I might find myself slipping into an irreversible coma.
After my second-last post on this blog, about whether cycling was part of the traditional philosophical conception of the Good Life, I emailled Gordon Graham, the philosopher who introduced me 24 years ago to the idea of the Good Life, to see what he made of the piece. Prof Graham, now at Princeton Theological Seminary, was generous enough to say he’d enjoyed the post but asked a question: were my data incomplete? Prof Graham wondered if, perhaps, while motorists were far less likely than cyclists to die on the roads, they might be more prone to injury.
|Pedestrians, albeit not in the UK: set to get fewer smug looks
from the Invisible Visible Man
The gloomy answer, on investigation in the Department for Transport statistics, is that there’s actually an especially high proportion of serious injuries to deaths for cyclists. And I don’t like the sound of a serious injury. It’s “an injury for which a person is detained in hospital as an in-patient, or any of the following injuries whether or not they are detained in hospital: fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushings, burns (excluding friction burns), severe cuts, severe general shock requiring medical treatment and injuries causing death 30 or more days after the accident”.
In 2010, there were, I calculate, 23.96 serious injuries to cyclists for every fatality, 11.86 for motorbikes, 10.67 for car occupants and 12.84 for pedestrians. The only good news is that a broken wrist or severe shock is enough to get you into company with people who die after six weeks in a coma – and that cycling still looks much safer than riding a motorbike. For every billion vehicle kilometres, 553 cyclists were killed or seriously injured in 2010, against 1,021 motorcyclists, 322 pedestrians and 15 people in cars.
While cycling is still less likely than many people assume to kill you, you've got a relatively higher chance of being hurt badly. If something makes it through the steel shell of a car, meanwhile, there's a relatively high chance it's going to kill you.
The health and environmental benefits still mean I’m pedalling towards the Good Life, I reckon. But I’ll be looking that little bit less smugly at the pedestrians as I go there.
Do the new figures change your minds about whether cycling is part of the Good Life? Do please comment below.