How risky is ICEBIKING? Are you taking your life in your hands when you venture
on the icy road? While it can't be said that ICEBIKERS are never injured, it would
seem that as a means of transportation or recreation winter cycling is no more risky than
cycling in general. In fact, it may be safer.
How Safe is Cycling
Most people, especially new cyclists and motorists believe that
cycling is one of the most dangerous modes of transportation. This is not
necessarily true. There are several sources of information that indicate that
cycling is safer than traveling by motor vehicle. See the table below, and a more
detailed explanation on Ken
Kifer's How Dangerous is Cycling page.
The table shows the risk per
hour of exposure to various activities.
Note that Bicycling has about half the risk
per hour of exposure that passenger cars impose.
These figures are for all cyclists. Experienced cyclists have a far lower
fatality rate that pictured here.
Activity per million hrs
General Aviation 15.58
On-road Motorcycling 8.80
Scuba Diving 1.98
Living (all causes of death) 1.53
Passenger cars .47
Water skiing .28
Flying (scheduled domestic airlines) .15
Cosmic Radiation from transcontinental flights .035
Home Living (active) .027
Traveling in a School Bus .022
Passenger Car Post-collision fire .017
Home Living, active & passive (sleeping) .014
Residential Fire .003
Compiled by Failure Analysis Associates, Inc.
(Appeared in Design News, 10-4-93)
Yes, bikes are slower, and therefore you are exposed to the risk for a
But bikes are not always that much
slower over the distance bikes are used. Obviously bikes are not
used for routine commuting for distances much beyond 30 miles.
Time is the limiting factor as to what vehicle is chosen for most commutes.
Therefore time is the logical unit of comparison, not distance.
Considering that the average passenger car travels at 17mph over the life of the
vehicle, you can assume that at least as many hours are spent in the car as on the bike.
Most people will devote no more than half an hour, maybe 45 minutes to commuting (each
way). Some more, but many more spend far less time in daily transit. The same
is true of cyclists. Once the trip starts taking more than half an hour each way,
the number of participants falls off dramatically. Commuter Cyclists and motorists
tend to spend about the same amount of time per day in/on the vehicle.
Therefore, although you may go faster and farther in a car, you will spend about the
same amount of time doing it. Your risk for the period you spend in a car is twice
as high as the same period you spend on a bike.
How Safe is Winter Cycling
Winter cyclist report few serious accidents.
There are the occasional crashes but because of extra clothing and a slippery surface
to land on, these usually result in less injury than would be sustained by a bare limbed
cyclist on dry pavement. Road rash is just about unheard of.
In the winter of 98/99 the ICEBIKE site conducted a survey of winter cyclists with an
automated web based survey instrument.
One of the questions asked concerned the worst accident that respondents had
experienced while cycling in winter. The results were surprising. These results are
replicated below and on the full result page.
Only slightly over 4 percent had ever required medical attention for a winter
Fully 70% had never been injured at all!
Question 11: What Was Your Worst Winter Cycling Accident
|minor falls - no injury
|sprains, bruises, minor frostbite -no medical attention
|sprains, broken bones, - needing medical attention
|Injury requiring Hospitalization
Yet this is not to say that winter cycling is uneventful. Another 70% did have
some uncontrolled collisions with the ground, or other injuries, but nothing requiring
medical attention. Perhaps because of this, ICEBIKERS tend to be realists, and
realize they may well fall, and are prepared for it. Fully 82% of the respondents ALWAYS
wear a helmet. (see full results page).
Now we are fully aware that web based surveys are somewhat suspect in that there
is very little control over who fills out the survey and how many times they do it. (This
survey had a lock mechanism preventing duplicate submissions from the same machine within
one hour, so someone wanting to bias the results would have had to try rather hard to do
so.) Never the less, this is the best data we know of regarding winter cycling, and
inspection of the raw data did not show obvious signs of intentional tampering.