But drivers are killing themselves and other drivers and passengers as well. There are over 30,000 vehicle related deaths each year. Safer cars have helped reduce those deaths from over 40,000 in the 70s, 80s, and 90s - though it's like having a better helmet in football - it just makes you feel safer and hit harder. Regardless, that is about 11 car-related deaths per 100,000 in the general population. If you translate the 840 cycling deaths in 2016 to the supposed 47.8 million people who "participate in cycling" - then 1.8 cyclists per 100,000 cyclists are killed. The problem with that is of the cycling participants some rode 1x in the year and others potentially hundreds of times and everything in between. But with that simple analysis you are probably safer cycling than driving – that is unless you cycle all of the time and then the probability of having a car/bike collision instinctively has to go up since you are simply on the road so much more. And when there is an incident the consequences are severe. Earl Gillon from NC was known as an experienced safe rider and covering over 20,000 miles a year - many times over 100 miles in a day. He retired from his career and then, while riding alone on a sunny day in NC at age 64, was hit from behind and is now dead in an instant. Pro cyclist Seth Jones, preparing to leave for his racing season in Europe, was riding alone and hit from behind by a distracted driver who drifted over into the right side white line. Seth barely survived since it happened in front of a firehouse so he was able to get immediate aid and was transported to a local trauma center to stop brain bleeding that would have otherwise killed him.
When hits with cars do happen forty percent of fatalities are from rear end collisions. We all fear/dread the notion of being struck from behind by an inattentive driver. I have to admit I tense up when cars approach from behind double checking my place on the road or shoulder. Are they paying attention? Do they see me? Are they going to move over? Second most common car-bike impact is a t-hit for 10% - like Stacy Stranick - a Charlotte NC cyclist killed while riding alone with a car illegally turning in front of her. In another post maybe we should look into the apparent lack of consequences for drivers who hit cyclists. Groups of cyclists are are hit as well. Yesterday in Townsville Australia a group of five cyclists hit and run major injuries for all. Group rides have been ploughed through on many occasions over the years recently in Davie Florida and other places where there are also fatalities and major injuries.
Another way to look at safety when compared to driving is as follows. With a reported 222M drivers on the road and estimated 47M participating cyclists - and using the known annual death rates - you can see that cycling, per user, is safer than driving or being a passenger in a car. These numbers do not take into account trips or miles per user but that is true on both the car and bike side of this comparison. This is just a per 100k estimate of death rates for known users. So, the idea is fatality rates for cycling is better than automobiles and basically safe; but not as safe as we would like it to be. Until 100% of users cycling are not struck and killed - the 1.8 per 100k cyclists can face horrible consequences doing what they love for fitness, commuting, or transportation.
Number of participants in bicycling in the United States from 2006 to 2018
Thoughts? Leave a comment.
Sources: Statista, People for Bikes, Outside Magazine, League of American Bicyclists, WeeklyRides.com