Commuters who cycle to work have a significantly lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and death than those who do not, research shows.
However, cycling to work is also associated with a higher risk of admission to hospital for an injury than other modes of commuting, according to the study published in The BMJ.
Recent evidence shows that active modes of commuting are linked to potential health benefits such as improved fitness and lower body fat, and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and death.
But many people are put off by the potential danger linked to cycling in traffic.
The researchers set out to investigate the association between commuter cycling and risk of injury, compared with other modes of commuting.
They analysed data from the UK Biobank study, which included 230,390 daily commuters from 22 sites across the UK, half (52%) of which were women, with an average age of 52.
The participants were monitored for an average of 8.9 years, during which only 7% of the 5,704 people who only cycled to work were injured.
Among people who cycled for part of the commute 6% were injured, while 4.3% of the commuters who travelled by car or public transport were injured.
Cycling was associated with a higher risk of injury to arms and legs, the torso, the head or neck, and fracture injuries, as well as injury-related hospital stays of one, two to six, and seven or more days.
Among all commuters, those who were injured were slightly older, more likely to be white men and a current smoker, and have a history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer or longstanding illness.
After taking account of other potentially influential factors, such as age, sex, and physical activity levels, commuting by bicycle was associated with a 45% higher risk of hospital admission for a first injury and a 3.4-fold higher risk of a transport related incident.
But when those who cycled for the whole or part of the journey were compared with all other commuters, the cyclists showed a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (21%), lower risk of first cancer diagnosis (11%) and lower risk of death (12%).
To put this into context, if 1,000 people changed their mode of commuting to include cycling for 10 years, this would mean an estimated 26 additional hospital admissions for a first injury, 15 fewer first cancer diagnoses, four fewer cardiovascular disease events and three fewer deaths.
“The risk of injury associated with cycling commuting needs to be taken seriously and safer infrastructure provided if we are to address cycling dangers (both real and perceived) in the UK. This could help increase the uptake of cycling commuting with resulting benefits to health and the environment,” the authors said.