The rise of biking has helped Americans get healthier and minimize pollution—not to mention avoid the gas pump and sitting in traffic. Approximately 3.14 billion trips were taken by bicycle in 1995, and by 2009 that number had jumped to 4.08 billion. Cities continue to invest in bike paths, trails, and another bike commuting projects to encourage citizens to ride their bicycles regularly.
“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,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association.
But unfortunately, the rise of bicycling has also lead to an increase in bicycle fatalities. According to a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association, there were 621 bicyclist deaths in 2010 and 722 in 2012, adding up to an increase of 16 percent. (For comparison, motor vehicle fatalities increased by only 1 percent over the same period.) This 16-percent increases comes after 35 straight years of decreasing cyclist fatalities.
Here are more key takeaways from the Governors Highway Safety Association report:
- Nearly 9 in 10 bicycle fatalities are adult males. Men make up 88 percent of those killed in bicycle accidents in 2012.
- More than one-fourth of bicyclists killed were under the influence. Many bicyclists consider it the “safe choice” to ride their bike home after a night out, but this may not necessarily be the case. Approximately 28 percent of bicyclists killed in 2012 had blood alcohol concentrations above the legal limit.
- More than two-thirds of bicyclists killed were not wearing helmets. Bicycle accidents can cause any number of injuries, but the most serious injuries are to the head. Wearing a helmet reduces the chance of serious head injury by 85 percent—which can be the difference between life and death. Of those killed in fatal bicycle accidents, only 17 percent were wearing helmets. New Jersey law states that any bike rider under 17 years of age must wear a helmet, and New York law requires anyone under 14 to wear a helmet. A total of 21 states have adopted helmet laws for younger riders, but no state has passed a universal law and there is no federal law addressing helmet use.
- Bike accidents are increasingly concentrated in urban areas. Approximately 69 percent of fatal bike accidents happened in urban areas in 2012, compared to only 50 percent of fatal accidents in 1975.
- More than 700 bicyclists were killed in 2012. 722 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2012, compared to 680 in 2011. The 2012 numbers represent a 16 percent increase in bike-related fatalities compared to 2010. This comes at a time when bicycle commuting has seen a 62 percent increase since 2000.