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5 Bike Safety Statistics Every CA Biker Should Know

The Golden State offers spectacular trails and byways for bicyclists, but sobering statistics suggest that riders and motorists alike need to exercise more caution, and road safety engineers might also need to get involved to ensure the welfare of California’s large and burgeoning bike community.

Bike Safety Tips and Statistics

To put the state’s critical bike safety issues in perspective, here are five important statistics:

1. From 2010 to 2012, bicycle fatalities in the Golden State spiked from 23 to 123.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association determined that this spike in cycling fatalities occurred nationwide over this time period. The total number of national fatalities increased by 16% as well.
Of course, when you look at statistics like these in a vacuum, it’s easy to panic and identify causal patterns that may not actually exist. Whenever you assess trends in data over time – even when you use fancy tools like Bayesian analysis – it can be quite tricky to distinguish signal from noise. The big spike in bike deaths might be a signal indicating that biking has become more dangerous in the Bay Area, for whatever reason, but it also might just be random noise.

2. Of all people killed in bicycle accidents in California and elsewhere in the U.S. in 2012, 74% were adult males.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has tracked bike fatality statistics for several decades. In the mid-1970s, per the IIHS, only 21% of those killed in bike accidents were adult males. For that percentage to climb to 74% certainly suggests that something substantial has changed within biking culture in California and beyond. It might reflect the fact that many adult males (especially in progressive states like California) are now biking to work and biking more for recreation than men did several decades ago.

3. While 722 people died in 2012 in California (and the rest of the U.S.) in bike accidents, the number of bike fatalities is still far below the 1975 high watermark of 1,003 U.S. fatalities.

Also, appreciate that the U.S. population was substantially smaller back in 1975, so the per capita fatality rate for bike accidents was substantially higher decades ago. Perhaps the overall reduction in fatalities flowed from better bike education or from widespread adoption of helmet use.

4. Overall bike injury rates in the U.S. (and in California) have trended strangely since the mid-1990s.

In 1993, for instance, according to the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration, 68,000 people got hurt in bike accidents. By 2003, that number had crashed down to 41,000 before climbing back to 52,000 in 2008 and then dipping down again to 48,000 in 2013. The swings might be related to simple statistical noise, or they might reflect trends in reporting (e.g. what qualifies as “an injury” may change over time).

5. As few as 10% of bike accident injuries are ever reported to the police.
Hospital records suggest that the injurious bike accidents are vastly underreported. Why? One theory suggests that accident victims who get hurt may be shy or resistant, for whatever reason, to get involved in an insurance claim or legal battle over their injuries.

Our team here at Bay Area Bicycle Law can provide insight into your bike crash case. Please call or email us today for consultation.