Friday, November 5, 2010

You're Safer On a Bike Than On a Sofa

That's the new slogan of a campaign by the public health department in Copenhagen to encourage more people to go by bike. From a poster with the image on the right:
"You won't believe it...You're safer on the bicycle than on the sofa!" Lack of daily exercise is harmful to your health, while physical activity keeps your body healthy.

Cycling extends your life - daily exercise for minimum 30 minutes extends your life with up to five years.

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Obvious false dichotomy - which underminds advocacy. The choice is not between risking your life on the road on a bike - and getting no exercise at all. It's a choice between riding a bike on the road and some other form of exercise and some other form of commuting.

I have never been hit by a car while sitting on my coach. I got hit by a car this summer and near misses are routine any time any time I have to go off a bike path and onto a road.
There are several studies that show that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks. This is from a recent Dutch study Do the Health Benefits of Cycling Outweigh the Risks?:

"We quantified the impact on all-cause mortality when 500,000 people would make a transition from car to bicycle for short trips on a daily basis in the Netherlands. We have expressed mortality impacts in life-years gained or lost, using life table calculations. For individuals who shift from car to bicycle, we estimated that beneficial effects of increased physical activity are substantially larger (3–14 months gained) than the potential mortality effect of increased inhaled air pollution doses (0.8–40 days lost) and the increase in traffic accidents (5–9 days lost). Societal benefits are even larger because of a modest reduction in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and traffic accidents.

Conclusions: On average, the estimated health benefits of cycling were substantially larger than the risks relative to car driving for individuals shifting their mode of transport."
@George your right about being concerned for road safety while on a bike, with this in mind you should be interested in the work supports.
@Bruce, Thank you for commenting with the background information that went into this post. I know you always put a lot of consideration into each post and it's nice to have a glimpse of your ample reasons for each post.
@George: Not really a false dichotomy. Or at least not as false as you make it out to be. For many people the choice is between a bike (exercise) and a car (no exercise). Your phrase "some other form of exercise" rings hollow to me, given that most Americans are getting fat instead of exercising.

Seriously, the way we in the USA think about exercise is stunningly wrong-headed. We won't see obesity rates fall until exercise is integrated into our daily lives. As it stands, Americans think of exercise as a separate activity that takes place at an "exercise facility" using specialized equipment. This is great marketing--it's making a lot of money for the exercise industry and helping out a small population of gym rats and fitness gurus--but the underlying message is quite literally killing the rest of us.

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