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
Bicycle Crash Statistics
- 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
They summarize their findings
on this page,
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:
- When the motorist and bicyclist were on initial parallel paths,
either in the same direction or opposing directions, the three most
frequent categories of crashes were:
- Motorist turning or merging into the path of a bicyclist (12.1
percent of all crashes). Almost half (48.8 percent) of these crashes
involved a motorist making a left turn in front of a bicyclist approaching
from the opposite direction.
- Motorist overtaking a bicyclist (8.6 percent of all crashes). Of
these crashes, 23 percent appeared to involve a motorist who misjudged
the space required to safely pass the bicyclist.
- Bicyclist turning or merging into the path of a motorist (7.3 percent
of all crashes). Within this category, 60 percent involved a bicyclist
making a left turn in front of a motorist traveling in the same direction.
- When the motorist and bicyclist were on initial crossing paths, the
three most frequent categories of crashes were:
- Motorist failed to yield right-of-way at a junction (21.7 percent of all
crashes). Of these crashes, more than a third (37.3 percent) involved a
motorist violating the sign or signal and drove into the crosswalk or
intersection and struck the bicyclist.
- Bicyclist failed to yield right-of-way at an intersection (16.8
percent of all crashes). Within this category, 38 percent involved a
bicyclist who had stopped for a sign or flashing signal and then drove
into the intersection and was struck by the motor vehicle.
- Bicyclist failed to yield right-of-way at a midblock location
(11.7 percent of all crashes). Almost half of these crashes (43.4 percent)
involved a bicyclist riding out into the roadway from a residential driveway.
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
(Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool) to analyze accidents statewide
present statistics about them in a variety of ways, so you can do your
own cross-correlations of accident types and circumstances.
- 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
but they really only have studied bicycle crash statistics. They
draw some interesting conclusions from the data.
Some numbers on nationwide bicycle fatalities from 1975-2002:
- 660 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2002.
This is 9 percent fewer than in 2001 and down 34 percent since 1975.
Bicycle deaths are most likely to occur in summer. Deaths are most likely to
occur on Fridays and Saturdays. The peak time is 3-9 pm.
- Ninety-eight percent of bicyclists killed in 1999 reportedly weren't wearing
- Deaths of older bicyclists are an increasing problem. Seventy-one
percent of 1999 bicycle deaths were riders 16 years and older. This
compares with 32 percent of bicycle deaths in 1975.
- Four states (California, Florida, New York, and Texas) accounted for
43 percent of bicycle deaths in 1999.
- More bicyclists were killed in urban areas than in rural areas (64 percent
compared with 36 percent) in 1999.
- Thirty-five percent of bicycle deaths in 1999 occurred at intersections.
- Fifty-seven percent of bicycle deaths in 1999 occurred on major roads,
and 37 percent occurred on local roads.
- Fifty-nine percent of bicycle deaths among children younger than 13 and 27
percent of adult bicycle deaths occur on minor roads. Adult bicyclists
are more likely than children to be killed on major roads (67 percent
compared with 38 percent).
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.
- Riley Geary has analyzed
U.S. Bicycle Traffic Fatalities from 1994 to 1998 using the
NHTSA FARS database,
...adult 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
- 8 cyclist fatalities in Massachusetts in 1998, 1.30 per million population,
less than half the national average of 2.82/million
- 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.
MassBike president, Paul Schimek, has also written a good summary of crash
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