Research proves cycling is safer than DIY, improves our physical and mental well-being and is easier than ever before because of e-bikes, so there are no more excuses to avoid pedal power, just benefits all round.

Dr Michelle Dickinson, also known as Nanogirl, is an Auckland University nanotechnologist who is passionate about getting Kiwis hooked on science. Tweet her your science questions @medickinson.

With a hot-pink cycleway winning international design awards and now resource consent for a cyclable Skypath harbour crossing, it seems New Zealand is starting to take some big steps towards make cycling accessible and safe.

The Government has set aside $100 million over the next four years to improve our urban cycle networks, a move that will have positive knock-on effects in other areas.

According to an Auckland case study by Professor Alistair Woodward, every dollar spent on cycling infrastructure saves $6 to $20 in other areas, with the largest saving coming from reductions in health costs and early mortality because of more physical activity.


Despite all this positive investment and potential to improve our wellbeing, New Zealanders on the whole are still in very much love with their cars.

Congestion, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are well-known negative effects of having so many motor vehicles on the roads yet half of the private vehicle trips we make are less than 6km and 20 per cent are less than 2km.

Imagine if some of these short trips were made by bicycle, we would not only help to solve our traffic woes, but also increase our health and fitness levels.

So why are we so reluctant to get on our bikes and can we change perceptions to make cycling more desirable?

Woodwood, from Auckland University, has just published another study looking at New Zealanders beliefs around cycling and compared them to the reality from collected data.

His research showed that the most frequent reason people gave for not using a bicycle was the fear of getting injured.

We are not alone in our fears. Studies in other cities around the world, including Seattle and Melbourne, also cited injury as the main reason people didn't use bicycles.

The data however doesn't support this fear and despite recent growth in cycling around New Zealand cities, the annual number of fatalities has declined over the past decade, reaching a 25-year low of only six deaths in 2016.

The truth is that riding a bicycle is 75 per cent less likely to injure you than travelling in a car.

Therefore, according to the data, it's safer to cycle than drive.

This calculation however is based on the number of hours travelled and so is skewed because people spend many more hours in a car than on a bike.

To try and create a more fair comparison, Woodward and his group compared the risk of injury from cycling against other common activities in New Zealand, including horse-riding, quad-bike riding, rugby union and skiing.

Using realistic exposure times to allow better comparison, they ranked cycling exposure as three 30-minute trips a week, horse riding as 90 minutes twice a week, skiing as half a day four times a year and rugby as one game every three weeks.

By adding this data to ACC hospital admissions, they were able to calculate that cycling was up to 2.2 times safer than DIY, up to 5.3 times safer than horse riding, 140 times safer than skiing and 530 times safer than playing rugby.

The study concluded that if your rode a bike three times a week, most weeks for a short urban bike trip, the chances that you would suffer an injury leading to an ACC claim would be once every 70 years.

With e-bikes making hills less of a chore, and cycling shown to improve memory and combat depression, riding a non-polluting, fresh-air-filled, fat-burning bike is not only safer than you think, but a potential life-saver too.