For short trips where cycling or walking might be used, there is little difference between these 2 modes on average in numbers of fatalities or hospital admissions.
The difference from previous analyses is because off-highway cycling numbers are excluded and all on highway pedestrian incidents are included (only those directly involving motorised vehicles have previously been included; tripping over uneven pavement and similar causes of injuries have been left out previously).
But the average conceals an interesting gender difference. Pedestrian casualties are much less for women than men (until you reach your 70s). So cycling compared with walking is relatively safer for males, but more dangerous for females.
On a per time basis, cycling is a bit more dangerous than walking because average speeds are 3 times greater. So journeys last less time for the same number of incidents, hence the rate per time is higher.
For 17-20 year olds males, cycling is safer than driving as casualty rates when driving are very high for young males.
The authors stress that for everyone except the elderly, risks of cycling (and walking) are not high. You could cycle for 40 years doing 1 hour every day and only have a 1 in 150 chance of being killed. They also looked at comparable data from the Netherlands. Our cycling injury rates are 4 times higher (but driving rates are similar). So still plenty of room for improvement.
As in many previous studies, Mindell and colleagues stress that the health gains from the physical activity involved in cycling greatly outweigh the small risks of becoming a traffic casualty.
Full paper is published in the December 2012 issue of the open access journal PLOS One, Vol 7, Issue 12.