Cycling Rates by Country

Distance travelled by Bikes in Different Countries

Distance travelled by Bikes in Different Countries

A statistics that won’t surprise many. The US and UK both have pitiful cycle rates compared to other European countries such as Holland, Denmark and Germany. A slight surprise Spain has such a low rate of cycling.

Death Rates by Country

Death Rates by Country for Cycling

An almost inverse proportion. The US with the lowest rate of cycling has by far the worst cycling injury and fatality rate.

Distance Travelled and safety

Distance Travelled and safety

After 1950, the Netherlands (like all industrialised countries had a sharp decline in cycle rates as people took to the car. The difference was that Netherlands made a concerted effort to encourage cycling – (even if it meant discouraging cars). Their efforts in increasing bike use have been well rewarded. As cycle rates picked up, the fatality rate of cyclists fell dramatically.

Cycling is so much more safer in Netherlands that it is hardly surprising there is little enthusaism for wearing a helmet. Ask an American about wearing a helmet and usually they find it hard to imagine riding without one.

Cycling Utopia – People enjoying getting around by bike

Amsterdam Cycling

Amsterdam Cycling

Note: The statistics are taken from an authoritative report – Making Cycling Irresistable – Rutgers

I hope this doesn’t put people off cycling in the US and UK. Cycling is still relatively safe see:

26 Responses to Cycling Rates by Country

  1. Lionel O'Hara June 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    In order for The UK to copy the Dutch format we first have to change our Highway code: it wasn’t until that was done in the Netherlands that cycling really took off. The law there states: cyclists must give way to predestines and cars must give way to cyclists. Then came purpose built cycle paths / lanes : but the Dutch had to fight government for these changes there os plenty of footage on the net of the Dutch protesting to protect cyclists. We in the UK are anout 20 years behind counties like the Netherlands Denmark and German but we can narrow the gap faster if the our leaders who cycle get off their bikes and do something more effective for the rest of us. Lionel O’Hara

    • tejvan June 18, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      Yes, good point. You have to work hard to improve local transport networks.

  2. Wire Donkey April 27, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    We have the cities and roads we decided to build and ours have been build for the motorcar in mind and in conflict with pedestrians and cyclists. The Netherlands and Denmark are two dynamic economies where city planners have catered for cyclists’ needs for decades. This doesn’t mean that with goodwill and over time British cities couldn’t become leaner and cleaner, with less noisy cars, less pollution, less obesity, more freedom for younger people, more and safer cycling. See what cycling in some parts of Britain looks like: – We can “go Dutch” if we want to.

  3. John Rawlins June 12, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    You are right to remark that the low rate of cycling in Spain is a surprise. Until recently, most Spaniards would have felt rather humiliated to be seen on a bicycle and the only exceptions were members of weekend cycling clubs. Urban utility cycling appealed to very few men and practically no women at all. However, this situation has changed dramatically over the past ten years and cities such as Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville now have significant numbers of cyclists (Madrid remains a little behind the times). As an example of this cycling boom, Valencia introduced a bike rental scheme in the spring of 2010 and attracted more than 70,000 paid members in less than year. The government recently said it will introduce legislation giving cyclists the explicit right to cycle in the centre of the lane on all urban roads with speed limits of 50kph or less.

  4. M J Wardlaw February 13, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    The differnt risks of cycling in NL versus UK or USA do not explain the greater interest in helmets in UK and USA. The difference in risk between driving in UK and France is actually greater than the risk difference between cycling in NL and the UK – but there is no interest in driving helmets in France.
    The key issue is social isolation. Where the rate of cycling per capita is low, it causes a distortion in the perception of risk that leads to fixation with helmets. In the UK, 85% of people NEVER cycle at all. Which is to say that the vast majority of UK people only know about cycling from the crap they read in the papers, hear from safety campaigners etc etc. No wonder they think it is dangerous. The attitude of cyclists is disappointing, however.
    There is no solution I am aware of.

  5. Pien April 19, 2009 at 7:40 pm #

    The Netherlands are as flat as a euro. That’s a major reason for the popularity of cycling. Also the infrastructure for bicycles is very good, as was said before, and the cities/towns are compact so everything is easy to reach by bike.

  6. David Hembrow April 3, 2009 at 8:35 pm #

    Mike, it’s quite simple. It’s much more pleasant to cycle in the Netherlands than anywhere else. There is never any stress or conflict if you cycle and routes are made direct for cyclists (more so than if you drive).

  7. mike March 31, 2009 at 8:04 pm #

    I would love to know why its so much higher in the Netherlands than anywhere else.

    • Lung the Younger May 28, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      Having no hills might have something to do with it Mike.

      I live in Barcelona and the whole city is just one big slope although as John mentioned, the urban cycling situation is improving in both infrestructure and numbers. They have a municipal biking system here and the bikes are parked all over the city but there’s a problem. The users tend to grab a bike in the morning and cycle downtown (or to the beach) but almost none of them want to cycle back uphill again. So there’s a logjam and special vans have to be used to redistribute the bikes every day. I imagine Rotterdam doesn’t have this problem.

      • tejvan May 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

        my friends in Bristol say steep hills don’t discourage people cycling.

  8. David March 30, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

    Fascinating stats. The correlation with helmet use is particularly interesting.

    I don’t wear a helmet and for a long time I felt that I probably should. But since reading things like the following, I realised the risk equation is more complicated than I had thought:

    [from “There is also some evidence that motorists drive closer to helmet-wearing cyclist, which is an unintended, and unfortunate, consequence of bicycle helmets. This is an example of risk compensation. Risk compensation occurs where safety measures are in place that make people feel that the risk of a collision is reduced, therefore it’s safe to go a bit faster, or closer, or pay less attention, thus subverting the extra level of safety.”


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