Are head injuries to cyclists an important cause of death in road travel fatalities?

Journal of Transport and Health
Publication date: 
July 2018

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Background: Despite the well-recognised benefit for individuals and communities of increased active travel, cycling remains a minority travel mode in many high income countries. Fear of injury is often cited as a reason. Campaigns to promote cycle helmet wear are alleged to contribute to this. However, there is little information on whether head injuries to cyclists are an important cause of death in road travel fatalities, compared with other road users.

Conclusion: Answering the question ‘How important are head injuries in cyclists as a cause of road travel death?’ depends on the metric used for assessing importance. Pedestrians and drivers account for five and four times the number of fatal head injuries as cyclists. The fatal head injury rate is highest for cyclists by time travelled and for pedestrians using distance travelled.


"From a public health policy perspective, the benefits of increased physical activity outweigh the harms from injury and air pollution by an order of magnitude"

"If the focus is to reduce the fatalityrate from head injury – or indeed from any other type of road travel injury– then road danger reduction for all road users should be the goal."