Gear up before you hop on your bike

Cyclists riding at Changi Costal Road.
PHOTO: Gear up before you hop on your bike

SINGAPORE - Cycling is getting serious here - or so it seems. Public bicycle racks are now commonplace and, sometimes, can even be packed to the brim.

Posters at MRT stations detail the dimensions of two-wheelers which are allowed on the trains - and you may have seen people carry their foldable bikes, or foldies, on board too.

Even more so, you would have spotted clusters of cyclists, all decked out in colourful helmets and lycra wear, zipping down the road alongside cars, buses and trucks.

All these point to the growing ubiquity of the sport - despite longstanding concerns about safety.

Indeed, there has been no lack of headlines about accidents involving cyclists, here and around the world.

Which brings us to this question:

Do the health benefits of cycling outweigh such incidental risks?

The answer is "yes", going by a 2010 study by Dutch researchers, who analysed the impact that 500,000 people would make if they were to make the switch from driving to cycling. The benefits from the extra exercise far exceed the risk of dying, either from inhaling polluted air or due to traffic accidents, they said.

Sure enough, people who cycle to work are 39 per cent less likely to die overall - be it from accidents, health or any other reasons - compared with those who do not.

This finding, published in 2000, stemmed from a study in Denmark involving more than 30,000 people and which spanned about 15 years.

However, just because chance favours you does not mean you can forget about taking precautions.

All too often, there are cyclists without helmets on the roads.

Many bikes also do not have headlamps and tail lights fitted, which makes the cyclists difficult to spot at night.

Stay healthy with cycling, but first, stay safe.

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