Courtesy of Bikeleague.org
April 7, 2023/Ken McLeod
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released a detailed overview on the deadliness of our roadways in 2021, the most recent year for which complete statistics are now available. The report shows that in 2021 bicyclist fatalities continued their decade-long climb. From a low of 623 bicyclist deaths in 2010, eleven years later fatalities climbed to 966 people killed while biking. This is the highest number since 1975, more than four decades ago.
People are killed while riding bicycles in all 50 states, but the ten states with the most deaths account for nearly 65% of all bicyclist deaths. More than 50% of people killed while biking are killed in just the top five states: Florida, California, Texas, New York, and Arizona. In those five states, there have been large increases in Florida, Texas, and Arizona, with a modest increase in California and a small decrease in the number of bicyclist deaths in New York.
For many years, California had the most bicyclist deaths, but Florida has passed California and appears to be breaking away. Florida has a per bicycle commuter fatality rate roughly three times higher than California, and that fatality rate increased at a higher rate between 2012-2016 and 2017-2021. Florida has the highest rate of bicyclists killed per capita at 7.6 bicyclists killed per one million people, more than twice the rate in California. In Florida, bicyclists account for 4.9% of traffic fatalities, which has actually decreased slightly over time as all traffic deaths in Florida rose at a rate nearly twice the national average over the last decade.
Massachusetts, the #1 Bicycle Friendly State, based on last year’s ranking, had only 7.2 bicyclist fatalities on average and 192 fewer bicyclist deaths than Florida in 2021. The per bicycle commuter fatality rate in Massachusetts is 2.6 deaths per 10,000 bike commuters, or about 16 times less deaths per commuter than Florida. In Massachusetts, bicyclist deaths decreased on average between 2012-2016 and 2017-2021 for all metrics that we track.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published its 2021 Fatality data on its Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool (FIRST). With this initial update, we are focused on select bicycle-related data, updating the following charts:
- Figure 1.4.1: Number of Annual Bicyclist Fatalities
- Figure 1.4.3: Percent of All Traffic Fatalities that are Bicyclists
- Figure 2.4.6 – Number of Bicyclist Fatalities by State
- Figure 2.4.7 – Number of Bicyclist Deaths by State Over Time
- Figure 2.4.8 – Bicyclist Fatalities per Bicyclist Commuters by State Over Time
- Figure 2.4.9 – Bicyclist Fatalities per Capita by State Over Time
- Figure 2.4.10 – Bicyclist Fatalities as a Percent of All Traffic Fatalities by State Over Time
Look to data.bikeleague.org for additional updates on traffic fatality statistics in the near future, in addition to data on commuting, funding, planning, and public health.
DECREASING RISK OF CRASHES
TRAFFIC SAFETY FACTS & DATA PUBLICATIONS
There are two main types of crashes: the most common (falls), and the most serious (the ones with cars). Regardless of the reason for the crash, prevention is the name of the game. There are things you can do to decrease your risk of a crash. First, know some of the latest bicycle safety facts:
- Bicyclist deaths are highest during the summer months between June and September.
- Nearly three quarters of all bicyclist deaths occur in urban areas.
- Failing to yield the right of way is the highest factor in fatal bike crashes, followed by bicyclists not being visible.
Ride responsibly, and remember: All states require bicyclists on the roadway to follow the same rules and responsibilities as motorists.
BE PREPARED BEFORE HEADING OUT
- Ride a bike that fits you—if it’s too big, it’s harder to control the bike.
- Ride a bike that works—it really doesn’t matter how well you ride if the brakes don’t work.
- Wear equipment to protect you and make you more visible to others, like a bike helmet, bright clothing (during the day), reflective gear, and a white front light and red rear light and reflectors on your bike (at night, or when visibility is poor).
- Ride one per seat, with both hands on the handlebars, unless signaling a turn.
- Carry all items in a backpack or strapped to the back of the bike.
- Tuck and tie your shoe laces and pant legs so they don’t get caught in your bike chain.
- Plan your route—if driving as a vehicle on the road, choose routes with less traffic and slower speeds. Your safest route may be away from traffic altogether, in a bike lane or on a bike path.
RIDE DEFENSIVELY – FOCUSED AND ALERT
Be focused and alert to the road and all traffic around you; anticipate what others may do, before they do it. This is defensive driving—the quicker you notice a potential conflict, the quicker you can act to avoid a potential crash:
- Drive with the flow, in the same direction as traffic.
- Obey street signs, signals, and road markings, just like a car.
- Assume the other person doesn’t see you; look ahead for hazards or situations to avoid that may cause you to fall, like toys, pebbles, potholes, grates, train tracks.
BIKE RIDING SAFETY
By riding predictably, motorists get a sense of what you intend to do and can react to avoid a crash.
Ride where you are expected to be seen, travel in the same direction as traffic and signal and look over your shoulder before changing lane position or turning.
Avoid or minimize sidewalk riding. Cars don’t expect to see moving traffic on a sidewalk and don’t look for you when backing out of a driveway or turning. Sidewalks sometimes end unexpectedly, forcing the bicyclist into a road when a car isn’t expecting to look for a bicyclist. If you must ride on the sidewalk remember to:
- Check your law to make sure sidewalk riding is legal;
- Watch for pedestrians;
- Pass pedestrians with care by first announcing “on your left” or “passing on your left” or use a bell;
- Ride in the same direction as traffic. This way, if the sidewalk ends, you are already riding with the flow of traffic. If crossing a street, motorists will look left, right, left for traffic. When you are to the driver’s left, the driver is more likely to see you;
- Slow and look for traffic (left-right-left and behind) when crossing a street from a sidewalk; be prepared to stop and follow the pedestrian signals; and
- Slow down and look for cars backing out of driveways or turning.
IMPROVE YOUR RIDING SKILLS
No one learns to drive a vehicle safely without practice and experience; safely riding your bike in traffic requires the same preparation. Start by riding your bike in a safe environment away from traffic (a park, path, or empty parking lot).
Take an on-bike class through your school, recreation department, local bike shop or bike advocacy group. Confidence in traffic comes with learning how to navigate and communicate with other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Review and practice as a safe pedestrian or bicyclist is great preparation for safe riding.
KNOW THE LAWS
Learn more about Florida’s Bike Laws here.
Drivers: Share the Road
People on bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as people behind the wheel of a vehicle.
- Yield to bicyclists as you would motorists and do not underestimate their speed. This will help avoid turning in front of a bicyclist traveling on the road or sidewalk, often at an intersection or driveway.
- In parking lots, at stop signs, when packing up, or when parking, search your surroundings for other vehicles, including bicycles.
- Drivers turning right on red should look to the right and behind to avoid hitting a bicyclist approaching from the right rear. Stop completely and look left-right-left and behind before turning right on red.
- Obey the speed limit, reduce speed for road conditions and drive defensively to avoid a crash with a cyclist.
- Give cyclists room. Do not pass too closely. Pass bicyclists as you would any other vehicle—when it’s safe to move over into an adjacent lane.
What Should You Do If You Are In A Florida Car vs Bicycle Accident?
1. Call the police and file a report.
2. Swap information (including any insurance information they may have).
3. Gather details.
4. Take pictures/video
5. Gather the contact information of any witnesses.
6. Seek medical care immediately for any injuries, no matter how minor you think they might be.
GET MORE HELPFUL INFORMATION ON WHAT TO DO AFTER AN ACCIDENT HERE AT OUR “BIKE WRECK CHECKLIST” >
Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm has been dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.
If you’ve been injured in a car vs bicycle accident, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve. It is also important to consult with a Board-Certified Trial Lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful, and we want to make the process as easy as possible for you.
Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit www.zarzaurlaw.com.