There are lots of reasons that cycling in the US is dangerous. Here are the worst ones.
Matt Phillips titles his post on Quartz Eleven reasons why bicycling in the US is exceptionally dangerous. He bases his story on a new report from the OECD that is behind a fence, but pulls some interesting quotes.
The first and most important takeaway is that there is safety in numbers. The rate of injury is inversely proportional to the number and distance that cyclists ride. When more people are cycling then they get better infrastructure, and drivers are more aware of them being on the road.
There are other quotes which are very troubling.
Investigating officers on the scene of fatal bicycle crashes in the United States found no contributory factor on the part of the motorist in 46% of cases.
Data from the United States indicate that cyclists were imputed with an improper action in 68% of fatal bicycle crashes (though, as noted earlier, this may be biased as the cyclist was not able to give their version of events).
So according to the cops, talking to the surviving drivers, the people driving the 3,000 pound vehicles are not responsible in almost half of the accidents, and the cyclists were responsible in 68% of the accidents, and of course the cyclist was not around to give his side of the story. I find that very hard to believe. Aaron Naparstek and others have noted that bike fatalities rarely get properly investigated and that the police have an anti-cyclist bias; I think we are seeing the results of that here.
And of course,
Red light running by cyclists … is an often-cited contributory factor in fatal and serious injury bicycle crashes (at least in the United States).
I suspect it is true that a high proportion of cyclists who run red lights get killed. This doesn't happen much in Copenhagen or Amsterdam because there are proper signals for cyclists and the lights are often set to more appropriate timing to be comfortable for cyclists. There are also lots of cyclists, and a lot of peer pressure from those around you. When the infrastructure is designed just around cars, and the lights take forever to change (or don't change at all because sensors in the roads don't pick up the weight of a cyclist) there is a greater likelihood of cyclists running the red. That doesn't excuse it, but good infrastructure makes a difference.