October 05, 2011 (Saskatoon, SK) – Evidence is mounting that the benefits of urban cycling far outweigh the risks. Saskatoon Cycles, a cycling advocacy group with over 1,200 members, is pointing to studies showing that urban cycling, with its reputation as a risky business, produces a dramatic net health benefit.
Cycling commuters live longer. An estimated 3-14 months of life was gained by an individual shifting from the car to the bicycle for short trips. A study cited in Walking and Cycling for Healthy Cities, (Pucher, J. and R. Buehler,) compares that startling benefit to the estimated 5-9 days lost due to the risk of traffic crashes.
A 2010 Canadian study by the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health supports those results. It reports that a moderate amount of cycle commuting or brisk walking has been shown to greatly reduce rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, many cancers, and improve mental health.
Dr. John Dosman of Saskatoon agrees: “As a family physician the major health challenges I address every day, and will in the future, are those chronic conditions we hear so much about-obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, depression, and anxiety. The scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows that even 15 minutes of daily exercise can change outcomes for these conditions. But I struggle each day to find ways to get my patients to be more active. Helping them to find the time in their busy schedules to conveniently include physical activity is often one of the main challenges.”
Not surprisingly, studies show that when cycling appears safer, cycling rates rise, particularly among women, who strongly “prefer bike paths and cycle tracks that are physically separated from motor vehicle traffic.” In fact cycling in North America has been called a “male dominated activity,” because, in general, North American cities often do not have sufficient safe cycling infrastructure. (Garrard et al., 2008 cited in “Cycling for Healthy Cities”)
Dr. Dosman sees a potentially large community health benefit to enhancing the safety of cyclists in Saskatoon. He says, “I’m a cyclist myself and find that using a bicycle to commute to and from work is a great way to conveniently get my daily minimum of 15-30 minutes of exercise. Unfortunately I am not yet confident enough to whole-heartedly prescribe this approach to all of my patients, as the cycling infrastructure in Saskatoon still needs some work so that all ages and sexes can feel safe biking on the streets.”
“We are actively working with the City on behalf of our over 1,200 members to improve the safety of our cycling infrastructure”, says Sean Shaw, President of Saskatoon Cycles.
“In order to achieve this goal, we are advocating for a modest and secure investment to ensure that cyclist can safely and conveniently get around Saskatoon”, adds Shaw.