Bicyclist fatalities, injuries rose again in 2012

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Grim news for bicyclists (and all road users) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: 726 bicyclists died in collisions with motor vehicles in 2012.

2012 federal traffic fatality report

2012 federal traffic fatality report

The bicyclist fatalities in traffic pose a 6.5% increase from the previous year. 2012 marked the third straight year that bicyclist fatalities have risen since a 10-year low of 623 fatalities in 2009.

The number of bicyclists injured in collisions with motor vehicles increased by a lower rate — 2.1% — in 2012 to about 48,000.

All categories up

The news for motorists, passengers, motorcyclists and pedestrians was no better as each category experienced an increase in fatalities over the previous year in the 2012 Overview released late last week.

The increase was lowest for light trucks (1.0%) and passenger cars (2.1%) and greatest for large trucks (8.9%) and motorcycles (7.1%). The total increase was 3.3%; the fatality rate for bicyclists was nearly double that.

The increase in bicyclist fatalities could simply be an outgrowth of more bicyclists using the streets and roads for commuting, errand-running and touring. It could also be partly attributed to the growing array of digital gee-gaws and touchscreen devices that serve to distract motorists from the business of driving.

No single issue

In terms of overall traffic deaths, which rose to 33,561 in 2012, the feds report that the increase can be seen across all crash causes and cannot be laid to one issue. The increase is fatalities caused by alcohol impairment rose at a 4.6% increase, slightly more than the 3.3% overall increase in fatalities.

The traffic safety administration compared fatalities by quarter over the past two years. For bicyclists, the agency discovered a 31% increase from January through March 2012 compared to the same quarter in 2011. The April through June quarter saw a 10% rise over the previous year’s quarter. The final two quarters either slightly less or no change.

All categories saw the biggest increase in the first quarter, which the agency reports was the warmest first quarter in history.

Let’s all remember to be safe out there.

Bicycle fatalities over the past 10 years

2012 — 726

2011 — 682

2010 — 677

2009 — 623

2008 — 718

2007 — 701

2006 — 772

2005 — 786

2004 — 727

2003 — 629


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    • Lynn on November 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm
    • Reply

    It would be particularly helpful to know the number per 1,000 cyclists on the road or the number stated as a percentage of the larger group to know if this is a result of more riders (total number can grow but percentage can be in decline). I also would be interested in seeing a breakout of the statistic to reflect some of what appear to be really irresponsible cyclists (middle of the night with no lights, for example). I know this is not feasible, but would really help identify where best to focus attention.


    1. I agree that an increase in bicycling could result in more traffic fatalities. The best way to show this would be by using mileage, that’s one way the federal agency determines if the motor vehicle fatality rates are out of the norm. This year, for instance, the rate of fatalities per vehicle miles grew by 3.6% for motor vehicles. No such estimates exist for bicycles.

      However, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey counts bicycle commuters every year. That group grew by 9.6% between 2011 and 2012, according to the latest figures released in September. If other categories of bicycling, such as riding for exercise or errand-running, also grew by 9.6% from 2011 to 2012, then that increase in bicycle fatalities doesn’t seem so alarming. Of course, even one death is too many, and we should all work to make the streets as safe as possible for bicycling.

  1. […] the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which reported in November 2013 that  reported a 6.5% increase in bicycle traffic deaths between 2011 and […]

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