Two Per Cent of US Road Deaths Are Cyclists

Rory Finneren/CC BY 2.0

630 “pedalcyclists” were killed in the USA during 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), who've just released the official data. Those cyclists made up two per cent of the total motor vehicle fatalities for the same period.

What the dry statistics don’t tell us is what percentage of the total number of American cycling public this number represents. And even bicycle advocacy groups like The League of American Bicyclists and Bikes Belong seem to have a hard time locking down such a figure. But Sustainable Energy Transition (SET) can at least advise that in 2009, sales of bicycles outstripped cars, with 2.55 million bikes sold, compared to 2.4 million cars and trucks.

And whilst it is great to hear that fatalities decreased by 12%, relative to 2008 data, that fiigure would provide little comfort to the friends and families left to pick up the pieces after the death of the loved ones.

Some of the less headline-capturing statistics are also worth dwelling on.

Whereas 630 cyclist died, a whopping 51,000 were injured. Male riders are seven times more likely to end up a fatality than a female cyclist, and four time more likely to be injured. to 70% of fatalities occurred in urban areas, with 67% killed in non-intersection road accidents. Interestly just shy of of one quarter (24%) of cyclists who died recorded a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 g/dL or higher., so we should not point the figure solely at other road users.

Commenting on previous such data releases regarding cyclists did not fully convey the whole story, The League of American Bicyclists noted, “a recent Federal Highway Administration study found that 70 percent of bicycle injury events in emergency rooms did not involve a motor vehicle and 31 percent of bicyclists were injured in non-roadway locations. The number of bicyclists visiting hospital emergency rooms is estimated to be in excess of 500,000 per year.”

And although these numbers are all a bit scary, they need to be put into some context.

In 2009 almost 34,000 Americans died on the roads, and a just shy of 600,000 passed away due to heart disease, (an illness that cycling is beneficial in reducing.) The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “estimates that about 112,000 deaths are associated with obesity each year in the United States.” and even shows a cyclist on the cover of their 2011 PDF document: Obesity - Halting the epidemic by making health easier .

It is better to ride a bike for your long term well being, than not to.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report: Traffic Safety Facts 2009 Data Bicyclists and Other Cyclists is available online as PDF. Via SportsOneSource

Tags: Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | Biking | United States