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Injuries to cyclists in the Netherlands

Casualties in context

It is sometimes claimed that cycling is less safe in the Netherlands than in some other countries because the country has a high number of injuries. However, it also has a very high amount of cycling. The risk per cyclist is therefore lower than elsewhere.

Cycling fatalities per 100 million trips

Netherlands Germany USA
1.6 8.2 21

Source: Pucher and Dijkstra, 2003

Cycling fatalities per 100 million km travelled

Netherlands Germany USA
2.0 3.2 7.2

Source: Pucher and Dijkstra, 2003

Helmet wearers feature disproportionately among hospital casualties

Helmet wearing in the Netherlands is very uncommon and generally agreed to be less than 1% of all cyclists. However, helmeted cyclists feature disproportionately in casualties going to Dutch hospitals. According to Government data, 13% of injured cyclists wear helmets (Rijkswaterstaat, 2008). Of the helmet wearers, 50% ride mountain bikes and 46% ride sports bikes.

It is difficult to discern whether the much higher injury rate of helmeted cyclists is because cyclists who are more risk-prone or risk-taking are more likely to wear helmets, or whether wearing a helmet makes someone more risk-prone or prone to take risks. However, given the strong association between helmet wearing and riding mountain or sports bikes, it seems more likely that it's cyclists in risk-taking situations who choose to wear helmets. But they may also feel able to take more risks if wearing a helmet – an example of risk compensation (Wiki, 3).

References

Pucher and Dijkstra, 2003

Pucher J, Dijkstra L, 2003. Promoting safe walking and cycling to improve public health: lessons from the Netherlands and Germany. American Journal of Public Health 2003;93(9):1509-1516.

Rijkswaterstaat, 2008

Ormel W, Wolt KK, den Hertog P, . Enkelvoudige fietsongevallen. Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat, 2008.

Wiki, 3

Risk compensation. An explanation of the mechanism whereby safety equipment can sometimes lead to people acting less safely .

See also