Friday, January 9, 2015

U.S. Bicyclist Deaths on the Rise

The number of bicyclist fatalities in the United States is increasing particularly among adults in major cities, a recent study shows.

After decreasing from 1975 to 2010, the number of bicyclists killed annually increased by 16% from 2010 to 2012. More than 700 bicyclists died on U.S. Roads in 2012, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
The study also reported that the percentage of these deaths that occur in densely populated urban areas has risen from 50% in 1975 to 69% in 2012.

“We’ve seen a gradual tread over time where more adults are bicycling in cities, so we need cites to develop ways for cyclists and motorists to share the road,” said report author Allan Williams, former chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

But the report also pointed out that many of the deaths were potentially preventable. Two-thirds of the deaths occurred in people who weren’t wearing a helmet, the researchers found. And, in 2012, almost 30% of the deaths were in people who had a blood alcohol content level above the legal driving limit of 0.08%.

One of the biggest shifts in cycling deaths was the average age of the victims. Eighty-four percent of bicycle deaths were adults in 2012. That compares to just 21% in 1975, according to the study. Overall, adult males accounted for 74% of the bicyclists killed in 2012.

The new research also found that states with high populations and multiple cities accounted for the majority of bicycle fatalities. Between 2010 and 2012, California, Florida, New York and Texas had nearly half of the country’s total bicyclist fatalities.

Part of the explanation for the increasing number of bicycle deaths is that more people are bicycling to and from work. Nearly 300,000 more people biked to work in 2008 to 2012 than in 2000.

“There has been a national movement to get people out walking and biking because it has major benefits for their health, and for the environment,” said Jacob Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research with the Automobile Association of America.

“While it is important to encourage more people to walk and bike, we need to think about how we manage a growing number of vulnerable road users” Nelson said.

My Take:
As a cyclist, I know first hand how dangerous it is out on the roads. Some of my patients that compete in road races do all their training indoors on spinning bikes to avoid the road hazards. Those are typically cyclists that have been hit by cars.

Virtually every ride I take, I have a close encounter with a vehicle. Most of the time, it is because the driver is unaware of “sharing the road” with a bicycle or is suffering from road rage. Somehow, the inconvenience of being delayed for 15 or 20 seconds in order to pass safely is too much for many drivers.

Bicyclists must obey all the same traffic laws as vehicles – stopping for red lights, signaling turns, even speed limits. We are allowed to ride two abreast and vehicles must allow a 3 foot space to safely pass. If that 3 foot gap is not available, the vehicle must wait until traffic allows safe passage.

Many cyclists ignore traffic signals and groups of riders too often ride 3, 4, or 5 abreast which can ignite that road rage.

Bicycles have again become a viable means of transportation and recreation. As bicycle traffic continues to increase, communities will have to implement more safety measures – bike paths, traffic barriers, but most importantly driver and cyclist education.

The Bottom Line:
Please watch out for cyclists, even if they violate traffic laws and yield the right of way. The odds are pretty good that if you hit them, you will kill them. As I frequently tell cyclists – being right doesn’t make you any less dead.

Source: Friday, January 2, 2015 National Institutes of Health

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