In 2006, we carried out a cross-sectional study in the urban area of Pelotas, Southern Brazil, with the aim of outlining the profile of bicycle commuters, analyzing their use of safety equipment and risk behaviors and the association between these variables and involvement in traffic accidents in the previous 12 months. This study was based on the baseline survey carried out prior to an educational intervention aimed at reducing accidents among cyclists. The sample included 1133 male subjects aged 20 years or more, and who used a bicycle for commuting. Crude and adjusted analyses were carried out using Poisson regression. We recorded a total of 152 reported traffic accidents in the 12 months preceding the interview, involving 10.8% of subjects. Most risk behaviors studied and the use of safety equipment showed no significant association with accidents. Only commuting by bicycle seven days per week, as opposed to five or six, and a combination of extremely imprudent behaviors such as zigzagging through traffic, riding after ingesting alcohol, and high-speed riding were found to be risk factors for accidents. Our findings suggest that in the context where the study was done (poor road signaling, limited policing, aggressive driving) changing cyclist behavior may not have substantial impact in terms of accident reduction before other road traffic interventions are implemented.
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