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Bicycling is a sustainable and affordable method of transport.

Bicycles require less to be spent on road infrastructure than heavier, larger vehicles. Owning a bicycle significantly improves the opportunities for education and employment of people on low incomes, particularly in rural areas of low income countries (Bicycle Empowerment Network, Bicycle reference manual for developing countries). In higher income countries cycling is an environmentally friendly and healthy activity.

However, cyclists are amongst the most vulnerable of all road users. In some countries where cycles are a primary mode of transport, cyclist death and injury can form a significant component of all casualties. The severity of cyclist crashes is often much higher than passenger or heavy vehicle crashes in similar situations, due to lack of physical protection.

The level of risk experienced by cyclists is related to the following contributory factors

• Interaction with larger vehicles (cars, trucks and buses)
• Road surface issues (such as roughness, potholes or debris on the road)
• Speed environment – both for cyclists and other vehicles
• Road design and traffic management
• Inadequate physical separation from traffic
• Other obstructions on the road.

The severity of cyclist crashes is strongly dependent on the speed of traffic. Research shows that the chances of a cyclist surviving an impact with a motorised vehicle reduces dramatically above 30 km/h, and even at lower speeds than this, serious harm can be caused, especially to elderly or child cyclists.

In many places brakes and a bell are required for a bicycle to be ridden on the road (WHO World report on road traffic injury prevention). Bells are useful to alert other road users to the presence of a bicycle, and can help avoid collisions with other non-motorised road users. Many also require that the bicycle has front and rear reflectors, and sometimes battery powered front and rear lights if the bicycle is to be ridden after dark (Bicycle Laws and Penalties – RTA Centre for Road Safety). Wearing a helmet is also often required (Treatments\Safe People\Helmet and Protective clothing ).

To reduce the risk of falls and collisions, bicycle riders should be encouraged and educated to

• Wear appropriate safety clothing and helmets
• Use designated cycle routes, tracks and lanes where available
• Keep tube tyres inflated to the pressure printed on the side of the tyre
• Ensure wheels are properly tightened to the frame of the bicycle and spokes are  not broken
• Ensure that brakes are in good working order – this can be checked by applying the brakes while walking  the bike
• Keep the chain oiled to slow down wear and reduce the likelihood of it breaking.

Well designed cyclist training courses with on-road components can also be effective (RoSPA road safety advice- Cycling).

In many developing countries, there are few skilled repairers, and repairs are rarely made with the correct spare parts (Bicycle reference manual for developing countries). Therefore, programs such as the Bicycle Empowerment Network, which imports recycled bicycles and also trains people to become bicycle repairers are of value.

Further information on bicycle safety can be found at the FHWA’s BIKESAFE website (BIKESAFE – The Bicycle Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System). This is an online resource providing practitioners with up-to-date information about how to improve the safety and mobility of cyclists within the

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