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‘Boris bikes’ benefit health despite risk, research claims

HEALTH BOOST: Boris bikes in London (PA)

TRANSPORT FOR London’s cycle hire scheme with its bicycles commonly known as “Boris bikes” named after the capital’s mayor are helping improve its users’ health, a medical study has found.

The claims were made by a report carried out by the British Medical Journal, which found that men benefit more from the bicycles, as do over 45-year-olds who have more to gain from physical exertion.

The study concluded that the positive effects outnumber the negative consequences, such as injury.

The report was made by Medical Research Council which analysed the scheme for a year between April 2011 and March 2012.

Co-author of the study, Dr Anna Goodman, said: “When the cycle hire scheme was introduced, there were widespread concerns that increasing the number of inexperienced cyclists in central London would lead to higher injury rates.

“Our findings are reassuring, as we found no evidence of this.

“On the contrary, our findings suggest that the scheme has benefited the health of Londoners and that cycle hire users are certainly not at higher risk than other cyclists.”

Researchers concluded that men significantly diminished their chances of contracting heart disease if they used the bikes, while the biggest benefit for women was a reduced rate in developing depression.

However, many potential cyclists are put off from using bicycles in the capital from perceived dangers of road accidents. Last year, for example, there was a large spike in deaths in November, many incidents involved heavy goods vehicles, which are seen as a major risk to vulnerable road users.

Risk perception is a common barrier to more people getting on Boris bikes and their own set of wheels in London.

National cycling charity CTC’s policy chief Roger Geffen told the BBC: “This can be a major deterrent to cycling. It's not entirely unfounded - we still need to see action to reduce actual and perceived dangers of cycling.

“But you are less likely to be killed in a mile of cycling than a mile of walking. One cyclist is killed on Britain's roads for every 26 million miles travelled by cycle.

“Cycling is far more likely to increase your life expectancy.”

London mayor Johnson has built a reputation for advocating cycling, despite his predecessor Ken Livingstone introducing the cycle hire scheme which have gone on to be heavily associated with the Conservative incumbent.

Johnson has not escaped the ire of cycling safety campaigners, who have previously criticised the mayor for not doing enough to change infrastructure and laws which could curb many of the perceived threats to cyclists and other vulnerable road users.

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