MORE than six cyclists a month need hospital treatment for head injuries as a result of road accidents in the Lothians.
Official figures show 165 cyclists ended up at hospital after accidents in 2006/07, with 77 of them suffering head injuries.
The casualties included 76 children, 42 of whom had head injuries.
The statistics show Lothians roads were the most dangerous in Scotland for cyclists, and the figures today prompted calls by cycling campaigners for more cycle paths and for cycle training to be incorporated into the school curriculum.
Ian Maxwell, spokesman for Edinburgh-based cycle campaign group Spokes, said today that the accident statistics were worrying
He said: "We would like to see more segregated cycle lanes so those who are not so confident riding in traffic will be given greater confidence when cycling from A to B.
"We would like to see cycle training being a core part of the curriculum, not just an add-on. That is the only way we are going to get the take-up that will almost certainly reduce the injury level among children and adults in the future."
Mr Maxwell acknowledged the Capital had provided some cycleways but said it could do a lot better.
"We are seeing quite a significant increase in cycling despite some of the gaps, but if we had more provision we would see more cyclists on the road," he said.
He said a growth in the number of cyclists would also help reduce accidents and injuries.
"Experience elsewhere is that as the number of cyclists grows the proportion of accidents drops. If there are more people on bikes, other road-users get more accustomed to them."
But Mr Maxwell said most cycling campaigners were opposed to making the wearing of helmets compulsory.
He said other countries which had introduced a law on helmets had seen a drop in cycling, with a consequent loss of the health benefits it brought.
He said: "It's one more factor that would stop people jumping on a bike – and it would be very difficult to enforce.
"If you are cycling on a busy main road among fast-moving traffic, a helmet is very desirable, but if you're off-road on a cycle path through pleasant surroundings, it is less so. Enforcement would have to cover both situations."
The city council said cycling promotion was an important feature in its transport agenda.
A spokeswoman said: "The number of cycle lanes is increasing and we are well on our way to meeting our target of creating a cycling network across the city."
She said cyclists could now use bus lanes on main roads and new off-road cycle paths recently opened from Ratho Station towards the city centre, between Gilmerton and Dalkeith and from Newcraighall station to the Queen Margaret University campus.
She added: "The active schools programme promotes safe and fun bike use to pupils through schemes such as Ready Steady Bike. By the end of the current academic year, 1600 P6 pupils will have received the Scottish cycle training scheme in Edinburgh."
Michael's still taking risks
DESPITE being dragged under a bus for 60 feet and having his skin torn off, 14-year-old Michael Meaney still refuses to wear a helmet when he rides his bike.
The Northfield Drive teen slipped under the seven-ton vehicle on Duddingston Road, but 18 months and several skin grafts later, his mum Angela still can't get him to wear a helmet.
She said: "I've tried taking his bike away but he just rides someone else's.
"I even tried to get him to campaign around schools to show other children the extent of his injuries, but he was having none of it."
Angela added: "He doesn't remember a thing about the accident, which is maybe why he doesn't worry about it."