Report: A Right to the Road: Understanding & Addressing Bicyclist Safety

Here’s the executive summary from this report.   See link at bottom for the entire document.   Report sponsored by State Farm and the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).  


GHSA analyzed bicyclist fatal crash data resulting from a collision with a motor vehicle from 1975 to 2015 using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Report System (FARS) to identify changes in trend lines associated with who is being killed, when and where those crashes are more likely to occur and why. Bicyclist fatalities had been declining steadily, hitting an all-time low of 621 in 2010. Since then, however, the trend line has been moving in the wrong direction; in 2015, 818 bicyclists were killed on U.S. roadways, a 12.2% increase over the previous year and the largest uptick in two decades. Bicyclists have consistently accounted for at least 2 percent of all roadway fatalities.

Adults rather than children are now more likely to die in a bicyclist-motor vehicle crash. Today, adults account for 88 percent of bicyclist fatalities, with the average age being 45. Male bicyclists are almost six times more likely to be killed than female cyclists, a finding that has remained unchanged since 1975.

As to where and when these fatal bicyclist-motor vehicles crashes are occurring, 70 percent take place in urban settings and 72 percent at locations not at an intersection. While these crashes are fairly evenly distributed between daylight and darkness (47 percent each), the fact that 80 percent of cycling trips take place during daylight hours points to the increased risk for riding at night.

Bicycle-motor vehicle crashes are often the result of the motorist failing to notice the bicyclist. Riders, on the other hand, are more likely to see the vehicle and expect the driver to give way. When they do not, bicyclists often cannot stop in time to avoid a crash. Attentiveness is critical for safely sharing the road. In 2015, bicyclists accounted for 2.2% (79) of the 3,477 roadway users killed in a distraction-related crash. This number is likely underreported, since a third of drivers say they are distracted for at least a minute in about one in ten trips. A smaller number of bicyclists also admit to being distracted, with approximately 9 percent reporting the use of a cell phone or other mobile device on nearly all of their cycling trips.

Alcohol is also a factor for both bicyclists and drivers involved in bicycle-motor vehicle fatal crashes. In 2015, 22 percent of the fatally injured cyclists and 12 percent of the motorists in these crashes had blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 or higher. Additionally, 27 percent of all bicyclists killed in these crashes had a BAC of .01 or higher. While these numbers have declined for both groups, they have not fallen as dramatically for bicyclists as they have for drivers. On the other hand, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities involving either a car or truck driver or motorcycle operator accounted for 29 percent of all roadway fatalities in 2015.

The FARS data also revealed that 54 percent of the bicyclists killed in 2015 were not wearing a helmet, a proven countermeasure for preventing serious and fatal head injuries for cyclists of all ages in the event of a crash or fall.

Taking a three “E” approach – engineering, education and enforcement – is needed to make gains in bicyclist safety. While infrastructure improvements (engineering) are key, behavioral-related initiatives (education and enforcement) must work in tandem with the built-environment to ensure the safety not only of bicyclists, but all roadway users. GHSA is calling on states and their partners to consider 30 recommendations that address planning, resource allocation, education and training, public outreach, policy and technology.