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Bicycle Crash Statistics

I originally put together this summary of the most recent data available as background for a TV news story on bicycle safety which was broadcast on Channel 5 in Boston on May 18, 2001. I will continue to add new information as it becomes available. -Doug Mink

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

Funded by the US Department of Transportation, this program of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center in cooperation with the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals says:
In 1999, there were 750 bicycling fatalities and 51,000 bicycling injuries resulting from traffic crashes in the United States. While these numbers continue to decrease from year to year, bicyclist fatalities still account for 2 percent of all traffic fatalities as well as 2 percent of all traffic injuries.
They summarize their findings on this page, and have a nice table of accident types and their relative frequency.

Their summary of crash causes
Here is a summary of what is illustrated on this page:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Their National Center for Statistics and Analysis has a PDF file of 2002 bicycle accident statistics.

North Carolina Division of Bicycle & Pedestrian Transportation

They have have used the PBCAT (Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool) to analyze accidents statewide and present statistics about them in a variety of ways, so you can do your own cross-correlations of accident types and circumstances.

Institute for Traffic Safety Analysis (ITSA)

Their web site states: Specializing in the use of NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), the Institute for Traffic Safety Analysis is an independent research organization dedicated to the collection and dissemination of relevant traffic safety facts, and provides objective evaluation of the available data while seeking definitive answers to some of the outstanding questions in the field of traffic safety research. but they really only have studied bicycle crash statistics. They draw some interesting conclusions from the data.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Some numbers on nationwide bicycle fatalities from 1975-2002:

Tables of total bicycle deaths for each year 1975-2002, and percent involving adults (age 16 and up).
The number of total deaths has dropped from 1003 in 1975 to 660 in 2002.

Institute for Traffic Safety Analysis (ITSA)

Riley Geary has analyzed U.S. Bicycle Traffic Fatalities from 1994 to 1998 using the NHTSA FARS database, concluding that urban cyclists now constitute the dominant modality among bicycle traffic fatalities in general, and that nighttime fatalities comprise at least half the problem in this class. This is out of all proportion to the amount of urban cycling actually being done at night, and strongly suggests more attention needs to be given to the entire nighttime bicycle conspicuity problem.

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (PDF)

8 cyclist fatalities in Massachusetts in 1998, 1.30 per million population, less than half the national average of 2.82/million

Bicycle-Motor Vehicle Accidents in the Boston Metropolitan Region (1979 and 1980)

The Boston Area Bicycle Coalition helped Wendy Plotkin and Anthony Komornick, Jr. of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council with this study, so I know how much work it took. Individual crash reports had to be sought out in the records of each town's police department. Of the 432 accidents studied, 17.6% were caused by a motorist's unexpected turn, 16,4% by a bicyclist riding out from midblock (this is a typical youth accident), 15.7% by a motorist turn/merge/drive through/drive-out, 9.5% by a cyclist going through a stop sign or red light, 8.8% by a cyclist unexpectedly turn, 8.3% by a motorist overtaking (forcing a cyclist off the road), and 26% by "other". There are a lot more statistics in this report, which has never been duplicated in Massachusetts, to my knowledge, though it is possible that Cambridge, for example, has been studied by its bike committee.

Thanks to John Allen for scanning in this report and putting it on the Web.
Former MassBike President and current LAB Board Member John Allen has more accident studies online.

Former MassBike president, Paul Schimek, has also written a good summary of crash cause research.

Is Cycling Dangerous?
Cyclist Ken Kifer uses statistics from a variety of reliable sources to show that bicycling is not as dangerous as people often think it is. I think his number of cyclists is a bit optimisitic, and that makes the fractional risk a bit too small in some cases, but overall he makes a good argument that cycling is not that risky. Sadly, Ken was killed by a drunken driver in September 2003 while he was bicycling.

Last updated June 16, 2004 by Doug Mink,

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