The latest research into the impact of bike-share schemes is revealing some startling new findings.
A team of researchers from the University of Exeter have found that for some people, using bike-sharing schemes reduces the risk of developing serious injuries and deaths.
What’s more, they found that some of the most common cycling injuries are linked to riding too close to vehicles.
The research team, led by Dr Rachel Stowe, says they found this through a meta-analysis of more than 400 studies involving more than 40,000 participants, covering more than 12,000 injuries and more than 13,000 deaths, from the UK to Italy.
They also found that people who were more likely to have injuries were more at risk of having a fatal injury, as were people who had a higher number of bike thefts.
“When you have this large body of research, there’s no question you want to take the best available evidence from that and then use that to inform decisions about how to implement this service,” said Dr Stowe.
Dr Stowe’s team, which included a former member of the Met Office, also found, however, that a large number of people had not suffered a fatal crash while using the scheme.
In the UK, for example, the most frequent cycling-related injury was a neck injury that occurred in the same location as a head injury, with the most frequently fatal crash occurring when someone had a head or neck injury.
However, when the researchers compared the results from these two types of crashes, they also found an increase in deaths in both cases.
One of the team’s conclusions is that while the scheme may reduce deaths, it may also cause serious injury or death in people who are not riding bikes for the whole of the year.
Another conclusion is that the scheme should be rolled out gradually over several years, rather than in a single month, so that people are not exposed to the risk for an extended period of time.
Bike sharing, which began in London last year, will be rolled into more cities in the coming months, including Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.
It is unclear how many people will benefit from the scheme, but Dr Stoe believes it could be as high as 100,000 people.
There are currently more than 500 bike sharing schemes in the UK.
This article appeared in New Scientist magazine, which publishes special issues on topics related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
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