Bicyclist league report shines light on traffic deaths

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There’s a surprising statistic in the bicyclists traffic death data collected over the past couple of years by the League of American Bicyclists.

RearEndIn a report issued on Wednesday to coincide with the annual Ride of Silence, the League reports that rear-end collisions are responsible for 40% of bicyclist deaths — the highest category by far.

Although the League study “Bicyclist Safety Must be a Priority” didn’t include as many bicycle traffic fatalities as reported by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the League had more information on each fatality than the annual box score offered by the federal government.

It shows why it’s important to press for better and more complete data collection at collision sites. We can learn from these tragedies how to improve road engineering and driving behaviors to make streets and roads safer. As the League says:

“Investments in infrastructure, education, and other department of transportation activities can also have a profound impact on the safety of our roadways and help prevent the particularly problematic ‘motorist overtaking bicyclist’ collision type.”

Consider the work that Seattle and other communities are doing to install “cycle tracks” that separate bicycle and motor vehicle traffic.


I had always supposed that cars pulling out of side streets or making right or left turns contributed to most bicyclist deaths. Actually, that’s the cause of most collisions, but not deaths, according to the website, which tells “10 ways to Not Get Hit.”

The website offers suggestions on how to avoid rear-end collisions, such checking behind before veering into traffic, wearing bright clothing or a blinking light, and giving some room between yourself and a curb. Also, use a mirror.

I’ve worn a rear view mirror for years. Although I don’t keep one eye glued to it, I do check it if I’m going to veer to the left or if I hear traffic overtaking me.

Other data

The information was collected for Every Cyclist Counts, a website launched by the League a couple of years ago to document every bicycle fatality in the US. Because most of the information came from media reports, there was a wide disparity in how fatalities were reported. The researchers also had huge difficulties determining whether charges were filed and how they proceeded through the courts.

The one overwhelming finding:

“We were struck by the lack of information, the lack of action, and the lack of a sense of outrage over these deaths, even in communities where this kind of tragedy is relatively common.”

The League says a non-motorized safety performance measure is needed to improve data collection and accountability.


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    • Rich on May 22, 2014 at 4:45 pm
    • Reply

    Not even slightly surprised by the prevalence of rear enders. If I ever forget, I have the scars to remind me.

  1. So now I know where to point my on-bike camera… Probably more proactive to have a big ‘you’re on video’ symbol on my jerseys and jackets.

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