Fatal Bicycle Accidents Increasing in California

Cycling has become a popular way to commute in all 50 states, and the number in California as well as across the country, has increased considerably from 2012 to 2017. The increase was 51 million to over 66 million riders, which is almost 25 percent. As a result, the increase in cyclist accidents and fatalities has also increased, but, cycling is still a healthy, relatively safe activity for millions of riders.

Bicycle Accidents

On the average, one percent of all vehicle accidents are bicycle accidents. In 2014, this amounted to approximately 720 fatalities, which was a four percent increase since 2013, and since then, the number has grown to approximately 800 fatalities annually. As the number of bikes on the roads has increased, so has the number of injuries and deaths. But, looking back as far as 1975 in the U.S., the number of bicyclists who were killed today has decreased 28 percent according to NHTSA from then.

So, it’s only logical that as the number of cyclists has increased, so has the number of accidents in recent years. Unfortunately, there is no reliable data on the number of miles bikers ride or the routes each cyclist travels or if they are physically exposed to motor vehicle traffic. Of course, some times of the day are riskier than others, so it would be helpful in understanding the risk bikers take if there was more detailed information.

Bicycle advocates and groups across the country are finding it vital to develop better safety measures, so cyclists can be better protected. Comparing a bicyclist and the risks they take with other modes of transportation would help in providing better protection in the heavily trafficked areas. Though some of the risks appear to be tremendously prohibitive, enthusiasts still consider the health benefits of riding to offset the impending risks.

Bike-Friendly Cities

Even though accidents involving cyclists are increasing, California is actually one of the most bicycle friendly states in the USA.

The top 15 cities worldwide that are bike-friendly cities (cities with the largest population of cyclists) include Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Utecht, Strausberg, Eindhoven, Malmo, Nantes, Bordeaux, Antwerp, Seville, Barcelona, Berlin, Ljubljana, Buenos Aires and Dublin. Two things to note are: the majority of these top 15 are from Scandinavian countries where cycling is at it’s best, and there are no U.S. cities represented at the top of the list.

American cities have a substantial way to catch up with the cycle-friendly environments of the Scandinavian countries. But, since 2007, when the number of cyclists began to increase, it became obvious that U.S. cities were promoting and inviting cyclists, such as San Francisco, and safe-cycling urban areas are emerging.

The top 15 bike-friendly cities in America are listed by the Census Bureau as Portland Oregon, Minneapolis MN, San Francisco CA, Washington DC, Seattle WA, New Orleans LA, Oakland CA, Tucson AZ, Philadelphia PA, Denver CO, Sacramento CA, Chicago IL, Honolulu HI Pittsburgh PA, and Boston MA.

The cities are valued and ranked by the League of American Bicyclists on a scale from 0 to 100 in five different categories and then combined. Washington leads with 66.2, Minnesota was second with 62.7, Delaware came in third with 54.8, and last place went to Alabama with the low score of 12.3. No cities received high scores in the 80s or 90s because the League wants to allow room to continually improve.

California Counties in Oakland CA

Cycling support and advocacy groups are springing up in every state, similar to the Bike East Bay, which is a nonprofit bicycle advocacy group well established in the California counties of Alameda and Contra Costa. Their spokesman recently commented on the rise of accidents and fatal collisions saying that enforcing reduced speeds, everybody on the road benefits. This is one safety feature California counties are using to reduce accidents.

Alameda and Contra Costa are also dedicated to creating protected bike lanes, and at the same time, bike trails are being established and bicycle clubs are encouraged. Research shows that millennials, 19-30-year-olds, are involved in 80 percent of the fatalities nationwide. The results showed that in 2014 injuries from bike accidents declined, and this was hopeful, but without knowing the details of the rides, it is impossible to know if the reduction was because of safety improvements or the commuters habits.

Major cities have a Bicycle Coalition which is active in passing laws to make the streets safer for bikes. This group is open to anyone desiring to make their city safer. The latest statistics are from 2014:

  • Florida with 139 deaths, California with 128, and Texas with 50 led the list.
  • Rhode Island and Vermont reported no bike fatalities in 2014.
  • 88 percent of those killed were male; there are more male cyclists than female.
  • 71 percent of bicycle fatalities occurred in urban areas.
  • 20 percent of bicycle fatalities occurred between 6:00 pm and 8:59 p.m.

This short snapshot of the biking society shows a growing trend of bicyclists who are commuting to save money, prevent unnecessary emissions going into the atmosphere, getting daily exercise, and those who cycle for pleasure.

The biker-friendly and safer cities in the U.S. are increasing awareness of the need for bicycle safety with petitions for bike lanes on busy streets, better access to bridges and limiting driving speeds for cars to 20 mph in congested areas. This also allows supporting city officials, who publicly promote cycling, to come in strong. Supporting government officials can come together to support cycling as an alternative method of transportation and a healthy and safe way to travel. Many bike-friendly cities produce cycling maps of the bike trails in the area, in addition to city street maps. The result is fewer accidents and fatalities.

Cyclists Contribute to Safer Conditions

Along with an awareness of riding safer on the streets of your county, individual cyclists are participating more in using the products that keep them safer while riding including wearing helmets that fit, gloves, and having front and rear lights. Total bike safety is for both the rider and the city to cooperate for a safer cycling in and out of the cities.


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