Bicycling as a means of recreation and transportation has increased substantially across the United States in recent years. While this may help the environment by cutting back on fuel emissions and benefit cyclists’ health, an unfortunate effect is the increased likelihood of accidents involving bikes. In many cities, efforts have been made to improve road safety for bicyclists, but sharing the roads with motor vehicles still poses a threat to biking enthusiasts.
What Are the Statistics on Bicycle Accidents and Deaths?
Biking accidents have been on the decline in recent years due to local, state, and federal governments implementing new programs and promoting greater bike safety. The incidence of fatalities, however, has been increasing. In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, 857 cyclists lost their lives in 2018 and 846 in 2019. In 2020, there was a slight decrease in fatalities, with only 675, as traffic on U.S. roads was down by 41% due to the pandemic.
The warm climate that much of the country experiences between May and August is also a contributing factor in bicycle accidents. With more bikers on the road during the warm months, 2020 experienced the highest rate of fatalities during this period, including 84 in the month of July alone.
The risk of a catastrophic bicycle accident is also greater in certain states, and it’s worth noting that a majority of the most dangerous states for biking are not only some of the largest states in the country but also have warm weather for all or most of the year. Consider the number of biking accident deaths in these states:
- Louisiana – 34
- Texas – 44
- New York – 44
- Florida – 90
- California – 118
There will likely be a risk as long as cyclists and motorists are sharing the same roadways, but there are measures that can be taken to increase safety and prevent dangerous crashes, such as:
- Changes to infrastructure, including protective medians and bike lanes
- Increasing driver awareness and caution when sharing the road with bikers
- Bicyclists becoming more familiar with safe biking practices before hitting the road
Is It Safe to Bike in U.S. Cities?
Although many cities have taken measures to improve safety for cyclists, statistics indicate that bike accidents in urban areas happen more often and have more serious results than those in other areas. Roughly 75% of all fatal cycling accidents occur in urban areas, as their roads tend to experience heavier traffic. It is not as easy to implement bicycle safety features into the existing infrastructure as it is in rural and suburban areas. Bicycle enthusiasts in the following cities have the highest risk of being involved in a treacherous collision:
- Los Angeles, CA
- Philadelphia, PA
- Memphis, TN
- San Francisco, CA
- Columbus, OH
- San Jose, CA
- Phoenix, AZ
- Las Vegas, NV
- Tucson, AZ
- Albuquerque, NM
The number of bikers on the road has been on the increase in these cities. For example, cyclist traffic in San Francisco increased by 13% between 2011 and 2016. In Albuquerque, the number of bicyclists has increased by nearly 50% since the year 2000.
Some cities, on the other hand, have seen a decline in the number of bike accidents and the severity of injuries. The safest cities in recent years for cyclists include:
- Portland, OR
- San Diego, CA
- Fresno, CA
- Detroit, MI
- Seattle, WA
- Fort Worth, TX
- Indianapolis, IN
- Dallas, TX
- Boston, MA
- Oklahoma City, OK
Many of these urban centers have worked with bicycle safety advocacy groups to make changes to their streets. For instance, Portland took measures to calm traffic and reduce speed limits, created more bike lanes on their busy highways, and made bike parking more easily accessible.
Why Do Most Bicycle Accidents Happen?
The key to improving biker safety is understanding why accidents occur, then taking measures to increase best safety practices by cyclists and changing infrastructure accordingly. Some of the most common causes of bike accidents in the U.S. include the following:
- Riding at night. It is difficult to see cyclists who are not wearing reflective gear, and more than 50% of all bike crashes happen at night.
- Treacherous road conditions. Although municipalities are responsible for ensuring their roadways are kept in good condition, 13% of all bicycle injury accidents occur on roads that are in disrepair.
- Rider inattention. Bicyclists must exercise extreme caution and avoid any distractions when they are on the road, including headphones and hands-free cellular devices.
- Failure to yield. Drivers and bikers alike must be educated and aware of their responsibilities to yield and respect the right of way.
- Driver inattention. One of the greatest dangers to anyone on the road is distracted driving, and with an increasing reliance on smartphones, GPS devices, and radio options in vehicles, drivers must make an effort to focus.
What Can Be Done to Reduce Bike Accidents?
Some of the primary methods to improve biker safety on the road are education and improving infrastructure. City governments can help keep riders safe by:
- Implementing educational programs for students
- Distributing materials about bicyclist and driver responsibilities
- Offering bicycle safety courses
- Increasing rider visibility at intersections by striping “bicycle boxes”
- Blazing off-road bike paths
- Building more and better facilities for bike parking
- Paving buffered bike lanes along busy highways
- Installing bicycle wayfinding signs
- Installing traffic-calming measures
- Linking gaps in existing bicycle networks
- Striping dedicated bicycle lanes
In the Event of a Bike Accident, Reach Out to a Trusted Attorney
There is no doubt that bicycling will continue to increase in popularity across the country, so it is essential for government entities to improve conditions for enthusiasts. Unfortunately, more bikes on the road are bound to lead to more dangerous crashes.
If you are involved in a bicycle accident in Elk Grove or the surrounding Sacramento County area, Guenard and Bozarth, LLP are the Sacramento bicycle accident attorneys you want on your side. In our decades of experience, we have cultivated the knowledge and expertise to represent our clients with the integrity we have built our reputation on. Contact Guenard & Bozarth online to see how we can help you.