Bicycles on the roadway are by law vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities of all motorized vehicles used on our roadways. Recent statistics obtained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) indicate that there were 618 fatalities in bicycle-motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. These numbers represent just under 2% of the total number of people killed in traffic crashes in 2010.
In 2010 there were at least 52,000 injuries reported, but this is only a fraction of the bicycle crashes causing injuries recorded by police. Many injuries go unreported. It is estimated that 52,000 is only 10% of the total injuries sustained in bike-vehicle crashes. The total cost of bicycle injuries and death is over $4,000,000,000 per year per the National Safety Council.
Clearly this is a very high percentage of fatalities, when you consider that bicycle trips account for only 1% of all the trips in traffic in the United States. So bicycle accidents seem to be overpresented in the injury crash data as they account for almost 2% of the fatalities but only 1% of the trips. On the other hand we do not know how many miles bicyclists travel each year and we don’t know how long it takes them to cover these miles; in other words, how long they are exposed to motor vehicle traffic. Other unknown variables include exposure by time of day (with nighttime being more risky), the experience of the rider, the location of the riding and alcohol use. Many of these factors and exposure measures have not been determined; and, therefore, the organizations studying bicycle risk has to make certain assumptions to come to any conclusion.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Association (“NHTSA”) has made an effort to determine the age, gender and location of bicycle crash victims. During its last study which was in 2009, the average age of bicyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles was 41 years, up from 32 years of age in 1998 and 24 years old in 1988. [87% of those killed were male and 64% of those killed were between the ages of 25 and 64.] It is clear that in the last 10 years the cycling demographics have changed dramatically. The study has determined that of the riders “in town” very few are children and teenagers. Today in town traffic bike riders are adults and often delivery men and women.