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National Bicycle Safety Report Findings Leave Cyclists Spinning Their Wheels

Sunday, November 02, 2014



Ghost bike memorials are beginning to be seen throughout the country as bicyclist fatalities are on the rise in urban cities. Photo Credit: moriza via Compfight cc

We've recently written about the growing number of bike fatalities this summer, most of which occurred within the bike tourism category of cyclist. But a new study released this week by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reports that a growing number or urban cyclists are at increased risk of vehicular fatalities.

GHSA’s Spotlight on Highway Safety: Bicyclist Safety notes that yearly bicyclist deaths have increased 16 percent between 2010 and 2012.

The report’s author, former Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Chief Scientist Dr. Allan Williams, analyzed current and historical fatality data to uncover bicyclist crash patterns. The study reports adults 20 and older represented 84 percent of bicyclist fatalities in 2012, compared to only 21 percent in 1975. Adult males comprised 74 percent of the total number killed in 2012.

Other significant findings: Urban fatalities accounted for 69 percent of all bicycle fatalities in 2012, compared with 50 percent in 1975. These changes correlate with an increase in bicycling commuters, especially in high-density urban environments.

“These are high population states with many urban centers,” pointed out Williams, “and likely reflect a high level of bicycle exposure and interaction with motor vehicles.”

One bit of data that hasn't changed over the decades: the vast majority of bicycle fatalities are male. Lack of helmet use and alcohol impairment is a significant factor in many deaths. In fact, in 2012, two-thirds or more of fatally injured bicyclists were not wearing helmets, and 28 percent of riders age 16 and older had blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .08 percent or higher.

The report finds that State Highway Safety Offices are giving bicyclist safety considerable attention, despite the fact that bicyclists represent two percent of overall motor vehicle-related fatalities, a proportion that has remained constant since 1975.

According to Jonathan Adkins, GSHA Executive Director, “Many states are dedicating resources to ensuring the safety of all roadway users, including bicyclists, by investing in educating bicyclists and motorists, promoting helmet use, enforcing motor vehicle laws and implementing infrastructure changes.”

The increase in road safety and law enforcement support for American cyclists is a great improvement, but many cyclists believe that giving out free helmets and having free public rider education courses is missing the target.

If bicyclists comprise only 2% of all roadway traffic, then educating bike riders is still only addressing 2% of the total roadway user group. The remaining 98% who travel the roadways in a protected metal bubble remain unconcerned and/or uninformed at best. And at worst, they aggressively engage in willful endangerment, threatening or actually deliberately causing harm to cyclists.

As the League of American Cyclists points out in their assessment of the review, one key element the study failed to explore in depth is how speed factors into these fatalities. The vast majority of all traffic fatalities—not just the bike-meets-car type—are directly attributable to speeding.

Focusing on driver safety is an essential element of improving roadway safety for all users, regardless of whether their vehicle is human powered or is motorized.

Read the GSHA's full report here: http://www.ghsa.org/html/publications/pdf/spotlights/bikes_2014.pdf



Üma Kleppinger is a Portland-based copy writer, author and bike addict. A recovering sesquipedalian who writes about life in the saddle and outdoor adventure, she is also the author of BikeYoga, a yoga program for cyclists. When not writing, she can be found riding and racing her mountain bike throughout the Pacific Northwest.


Photo Credit: moriza via Compfight cc


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