Viewpoint : October 2012

Here’s to staying active!

Despite the health benefits generally associated with biking, we are often led to believe the opposite by a reputable specialist or institute. We are told, for example, that by being active, we risk getting injured or hit… A fine message in this sedentary, overweight, junk food-addicted world we live in! The problem with these studies is that they are based purely on science and their authors sometimes neglect, either involuntarily or voluntarily, to make certain distinctions.

When Bicycling in Québec was published last year, we came up with the following statistics, which are also shared by the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec and the Ministère des Transports. From 1987 to 2010, the total number of bicycles more than doubled in Quebec, while the number of regular cyclists increased by 50%. For the same period, we noted a 58% decrease in the number of cyclist deaths, a 72% decrease in serious injuries and a 52% decrease in slight injuries. Moreover, during this same period, there was a moderate increase in the rate of car ownership in Quebec. Added to this is the conclusion of a recent study by Professor Piet de Jong, a mathematician at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia: “The health benefits of cycling may outweigh the risks by 20 to 1.”

The same caution applies in terms of the safety of children on their way to school. Everyone knows that the number of times children walk to and from school has dropped dramatically between 1980 and today. We have come to accept the parental car shuttle as the safest way to transport our children, whereas this practice is largely responsible for the real and perceived insecurity around our schools! We have been striving to meet this challenge since 2005 with the program À pied, à vélo, ville active, in order to get walking and biking to school back in style.

Yes, biking has its risks, like any other type of mobility or activity, and public administrators must continue to invest time and money into better adapting road environments to pedestrians and cyclists. But please, researchers of this world, stop waging these unproductive campaigns that distort the true image of biking.