I confess I was shocked to read the figures in the recent post on Mark Wagenbuur’s excellent website Bicycle Dutch.
Cycling fatalities in the Netherlands fell last year, from 200 per year in 2011 and 2012 to 184 in 2013. This in a country of 16.8 million people. The 8% fall is good news, but that still sounds like an awful lot of tragedies.
Of course any one of those 184 deaths is tragic, but if we’re talking statistics we need to consider other figures too.
The estimated total distance cycled by Dutch riders was a staggering 14.8 billion kilometres in 2012. That’s about one death for every 740,000km* ridden, making the Netherlands one of the safest countries in the world in which to ride a bike.
More concerning to me is that 67% of the cyclists killed were over 60. We ageing pedallers are probably less likely to be riding recklessly than young gung-ho immortals, so we have to recognise that our bodies are more vulnerable and that our balance, eyesight, hearing and reflexes are not what they once were. We need to ride accordingly.
On the other hand, having so many older people still riding must overall be good for the nation’s public health.
Helmets are not compulsory in the Netherlands and in practice few cyclists wear them when riding around town.
To read Mark’s full article CLICK HERE.
(*suspect figure – should perhaps be much higher. See Glen’s comment below. )
18 responses to “‘ONLY’ 184 DUTCH CYCLING DEATHS IN 2013 – good news?”
There’s also the point that with so many older people still cycling, any death by old age stands a higher chance of being while cycling. So the cycling may be incidental to much more of the deaths than where the demographic is youngish people.
That’s probably true too, No, though I believe these stats only record deaths as a result of accidents.
Yes, I think so too. Still it is a fact that many of the Dutch cycling deaths (two thirds?) are among the elderly. The reason probably being that they are much more likely to break some crucial bone when falling off their bicycles.
Jill is very much looking forward to cycling in Amsterdam but asks that you take us on treks totally less than an aggregate of 740,000 km, at least until she can gain confidence or acquire full-body armour.
The calculator tells me the average Dutch person cycles 15km a week. If a visitor contributes a few kms to the total, that entitles a Dutch person to a short tram ride.
In the UK it was 112 which is a higher % against total population.
When I was young we used to take a cycling proficiency test, these days it is called bikeability, do you have anything like that in the Netherlands?
No that I know of, Andrew, though I see schools teaching (mostly immigrant) kids how to ride. There’s also a new class for older cyclists on adapting to using electric bikes – great idea!
The cycling proficiency was a great idea. I wrote a post about it some time ago – http://aipetcher.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/cycling-proficiency-test-badge-and-certificate/
Apparently the most dangerous places to cycle in Europe are Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic – Eastern Europe needs a cycling proficiency test!
We do have a proficiency test here, but most kids are quite proficient by the time they are tested. If I remember correctly, I started cycling when I was about 4 years old, with some assistence of my siblings. When I was 6, I rode to school on my own with hardly a cycle path or track over a distance of about 4 Km. Of course, there were less cars in those days.
Most children are still self-taught, riding with parents or friends, and this can be done quite safely, with still improving infrastructure. For outsiders, hopping on a bike can be a bit frightening, but they’ll be fine if they take their time and and don’t rush into the thick of rush-hour. It took my Canadian brother in law a few hours to overcome his misgivings, but he was fine after a few hours and really enjoyed the trips we made from city to city.
Thanks for the information. Teaching someone to ride a bike is so frustrating. Last month it took nearly two days to get my granddaughter to become confident with the pedals. I must have said ‘It is so easy’ several hundred times!
Were you still here in Oz when those riders were mowed down a few weeks ago? At last it’s become an issue … and then, in tonight’s news, a rider in an organised long-distance race was knocked down (and killed) in a hit and run near Toowoomba. There’s something very wrong about what’s going on.
It is a scary looking number, how does it compare to road fatalities in Australia? The Dutch seem to ride as much as we drive so I would think that the odds of having an accident would be reasonably high or am I being too simplistic. Anyway, I’d probably feel safer ride a bike around the Netherlands than I would riding one in Queensland, motorists really seem to hate cyclists here.
Total Dutch road fatalities of 570 in 2013 were just under half of Australia’s 1193. 14 cyclists died on Australian roads last year – twice as many as in 2012.
When comparing those numbers, one of course has to take into account that there are about 40% more people living in Australia than in the Netherlands. Per million people your numbers make 34 traffic deaths in the Netherlands, 51 in Australia.
I would also like to know how many elderly cyclist were in fact riding a power assisted bike, which has the added risk of being able to go a lot faster than the unassisted one.. perhaps also making it easier to make a mistake and fall off at a faster speed..
In Poland, there were about 300 killed cyclists in 2013. It’s less than 10 cyclists per 1 million inhabitants comparing to more 10 cyclists per 1 million inhabitants in the Netherlands. But if you compare the number of cyclists in Poland and in the Netherlands, cycling in the Netherlands is much safer.
In fact, your infrastructure makes cycling safe despite the 184 cyclists’ deaths in 2013.
BTW, older people also have a bigger share in cyclists’ deaths in Poland.
Helmets are not compulsory in Poland as well. I don’t think helmets are so important. First of all, you have to cycle sensibly, use you head when cycling, be aware that a car is always stronger. Your bike has to be in good condition (brakes, lights). Helmets comes the last as a safety measure and cannot replace caution when cycling. I don’t wear a helmet when cycling am not going to when the helmets aren’t compulsory.
You might want to recheck your calculator; the Dutch data works out at one death for every 80 MILLION km cycled. By way of comparison, in the UK and New Zealand, they both have about one death for every 35 million km cycled – obviously not as good, but still a much lower risk than the media would have you believe.
Thanks Glen. My calculator (and I) have trouble with those big numbers.