Bicycling deaths were on the rise in 2011.
A report issued by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration finds that 677 bicyclists died in traffic in 2011. That’s a 8.7% increase over 2010, when 623 bicyclists died.
That reverses a trend of two straight years of decreasing fatalities for bicyclists. The number of bicyclist deaths in 2010 was the lowest since the feds started keeping track of what they call “pedalcyclists” in 1975.
During the same time, the number of bicyclists injured in traffic crashes saw a 7.7% decrease, from 52,000 in 2010 to 48,000 in 2011.
Overall highway deaths fell to 32,367 last year, the lowest since 1949. About 2% of traffic deaths involved bicyclists.
The report cited decreases in fatalities involving drunken drivers and passengers in automobiles and light trucks. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood noted law enforcement agencies need to continue focusing on issues of seatbelt use, drunken driving and driver distraction. The number of distracted driver crashes increased by 2% in 2011.
There’s no comparable analysis for the bicycle fatality findings in the report. In previous years, the administration has issued follow-up reports on bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities that note state-by-state fatality rates.
The LA Times reported that the NHTSA said 70% of bicycle-related death nationally involve head injuries, but only one-third of cyclists wear helmets. That’s an interesting statistic, but I could not find it in the report issued on Monday by the adminstration.
The traffic report also cites an overall decrease in deaths per 100 million miles driven to 1.10 in 2011.
There’s no comparable data for bicyclists, although US census and bicycle count data shows soaring bicycle use in recent years.
Bicycle and pedestrian commuting has increased 75% in Washington state, for instance, in the past 10 years.
There is no data available for 2012, which is still ongoing.
The League of American Bicyclists, however, continues to tally bicyclist fatalities at its Every Bicyclist Counts website. The site acts as a memorial for all bicyclists who die in traffic, reporting on the circumstances of the crash as well as personal anecdotes about the person’s life.
Bicycling traffic fatalities since 2001:
2011 — 677
2010 — 623
2009 — 630
2008 — 716
2007 — 701
2006 — 773
2005 — 786
2004 — 727
2003 — 629
2002 — 665
2001 — 732