Over on VOX, Joseph Stromberg rolls out another post on cycling, based on a new report from the League of American Bicyclists. They tracked a year of cycling fatalities and looked at the locations, the types of accidents and the penalties for the drivers that caused the accidents. And yes, for all the complaints about cyclists being irresponsible louts who cause accidents by going through stop signs and red lights, the numbers show otherwise.
A shocking 40% of the deaths are "hit from behind" incidents, where drivers just go right over a cyclist. This is disproportionately large in relation to the number of cycling accidents.
Of 238 fatal crashes where drivers were blamed, 42% were careless or inattentive, 36% were hit and run, and 12% were drunk or drugged.
94 deaths were blamed on the cyclist for going the wrong way, failing to yield or riding on the sidewalk. However since the cyclist is dead, they are pretty much going on the word of the driver and the police. Bike activists have been complaining for years about the lack of proper investigation of cyclist deaths, and the tendency of the police to side with the drivers. It's called the Windshield Perspective.
Joe Stromberg thought that the bias might be in the other direction, but comes to the same conclusion I do:
It's certainly possible that a bicycling organization might show some bias in interpreting newspaper articles (their standard for careless driving was "drivers were reported to be operating their vehicle in a careless or inattentive manner"), but the discrepancy is still pretty striking. Unsafe driving seemed to lead to way more deaths than unsafe biking.
The most deaths happen on urban arterial roads, those multi-lane higher speed roads that probably have lots of room for bike lanes. Because that's the way you reduce the rear-ender accidents, by giving cyclists their own separated lane.
An earlier post suggested that If you are a pedestrian, you don't want to live in Florida Apparently it is even a worse place to live if you are a cyclist, with 21.7 fatalities per 10,000 bike commuters.
The report gets personal, telling the stories of young community leaders who get killed by drivers who didn't see them. It also documents the ridiculously low penalties the drivers suffer. One example:
The motorist fled the scene, leaving Kyle on the street. He died a day later in the hospital. The driver was found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident involving death, criminally negligent homicide and careless driving causing death — and was sentenced to only 90 days in jail, five years probation and a one-year suspended license.
The conclusions drawn by the League are sobering and saddening; It is as if nobody cares.
Overwhelmingly, however, we were struck by the lack of information, the lack of action, and the lack of a sense of outrage over these deaths, even in communities where this kind of tragedy is relatively common.