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Cycling has been becoming not only an upward trend in many cities, but a focus of many city leaders. The goal is to get people out of their cars and onto alternative forms of transportation. There are many reasons for this, the two primary being a reduction in traffic congestion and reliance on fossil-fuels which will also be a reduction injuries and fatalities.
To do that, city planners in the Bay Area have increased bike lanes and reduced available traffic lanes for motor vehicles. To further increase safety for cyclists, many of the cities have built more shared-use bike paths and protected bike lanes allowing cyclists to get to their destinations with less risk.
These efforts have been successful in meeting many goals regarding the public’s interest in bicycles and an increase in bicycle use, however, despite these efforts, there are still many bicycle accidents and fatalities around in the region.
At Bay Area Bicycle Law, we are here to help you when you have gotten into a bicycle accident, but as cyclists ourselves, we hope that you are not in our office needing our assistance. In the rest of this article, we are going to look at certain bicycle accident statistics in an effort to inform cyclists about bicycle safety so people can make choices to become safer bicyclists.

Cyclist Accident Fatality Statistics


From 2013 to 2017, 3,958 Cyclists have died across the U.S. (FHWA)

  • 792 average for each year
  • 777 of the 792 (98%) were in accidents with motor vehicles


From 2007 to 2012, an around 834 cyclists have died on California streets. (CDPH)

  • 139 average for each year.
  • 817 of the 894 (98%) were in accidents with motor vehicles.

In 2017, California’s cyclist  Fatality Rating was 3.14 which means 3.14 cyclists deaths per million people.

  • Only three states are higher, Louisiana 4.7, Hawaii 4.2 and South Carolina 3.58.
  • California is often first in the nation for cyclists’ deaths in a given year.
  • Bicycle deaths in California make up 4% of all auto accident deaths in the state which is double the national average of 2%.


The age of the cyclist is a significant factor in fatal bike accidents. Understanding the reason for these might help in making the streets safer for cyclists. According to the NHTSA:

  • In 2017 the population-based cyclist fatality rate was 8 times higher for males than for females.
  • Male cyclists 50-to-54 were at the greatest risk of fatality with 9.51 rating (deaths per million).
  • For females, the highest age of risk was also the 50-54 age group with a rating almost half of the men’s rating at 5.05.
  • Children under 15 (both genders) accounted for 7% of all cyclists killed.

Cyclist Deaths and Impairment

According to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017 across the nation out of 782 cyclist death:

  • 289 (37%) Involved alcohol
  • 195 (25%) happened where cyclist was impaired.
  • 55 (7%) happened where motor vehicle driver was impaired.

In California 2016, out of 154 cyclists’ deaths:

  • 57 cyclist deaths occurred where alcohol was involved.
  • 39 happened where the cyclists were impaired.
  • 11 happened where the motor vehicle driver was impaired.

These numbers reflect the unfortunate affect that alcohol has on both driving and cycling. Also, more cyclists than drivers were impaired in fatal accidents which underscores the risks cyclists take when drinking and riding.

Cyclist Helmets Statistics

In California, once you turn 18 you don’t have to wear a helmet when riding your bike.
Deaths Nation Wide

  • Of those killed in bicycle accidents, only 17% were not wearing helmets.
  • Bicycle deaths have overall declined since 1995, but in 2015, there were 817 cyclist deaths which was the highest since 1995.
  • By age, the number of deaths by those under 18 have declined, but have tripled for those over 20.
  • This increase is likely due to the use of helmets in by those younger as parents more likely to enforce the helmet law.
  • Of the cyclists’ injured that are serious enough for and trauma center visit, head injuries account for 62% of the deaths.
  • Pedestrian fatalities among pedestrians are 36 times higher that car occupants, while bicycling death are 11 times more than car occupants.

No significant statistics are available for the number of California bicycle deaths that are broken down between helmeted and not helmeted.

Cyclist Injuries from Auto Accidents


According to the NHTSA, each year, around 55,000 cyclists are injured in the U.S. where the injuries are serious enough to file a report. Some estimates that these number only represent 10% of all cyclist injuries.
Of these, the vast majority are by male cyclists.
In 2018:

  • 39,000 male cyclists were injured.
  • 10,000 female cyclists injured.
  • Male injury rate across all age groups was 255 (injuries per million population)
  • Injury rate for women across all age groups was 62.
  • For males, the age with the highest injury rate was the 10 to 15 age group with a rating of 555.
  • For females, the age with the highest injury rate was the 15 to 20 age group with a rating or 144

Overall, male cyclists are injured at a significantly higher rate than female riders. Speculation for the reason is that male—especially younger—take more risks than females. Female riders tend to be more safety and security conscious.
Accidents and Impairment
The accident and impairment statistics closely mirror that of cyclist fatalities with 63% of accidents having no alcohol involvement, and 37% of all cyclist fatalities happen when alcohol was a factor.

California Bicycle Injuries

From 2007 to 2013, there were 87,845 bicycle injury accidents, including fatalities. This average to about 12,000 a year for an injury rate of 33.0 (injuries per 1 million population). California Department of Public Health report.
To put this in perspective, in California there are 235,000 traffic accidents a year on average, and the bicycle injuries make up 5.3% of total injuries.

  • !,215 of these injuries were in rural areas with an injury rate of 20.1.
  • 86,630 were in urban areas with an injury rate of 33.3.
  • 76% were in the daylight and 15% were at night
  • 28% (highest) injuries were in the 15 to 25 age group with the least being cyclists 65 years and over.
  • The injury rate for females of all ages was 12.6.
  • The injury rate for males of all ages was 51.6.

These figures show a significant difference in the risk of injuries to male cyclists versus female, and that the majority of injuries happen during the day and in urban areas.
Alcohol Involvement

  • In California, around 33% of all bicycle injury accidents with motor vehicles involve alcohol.
  • 67% of all bicycle injury accidents have no alcohol involved.
  • Of those with alcohol involved, 27% happened where the bicyclist was impaired and 7% happened where the driver was impaired.

Cyclists are at much greater risk of death and serious injury than are motor vehicle occupants, and alcohol greatly increases that risk. Drunk driving is still a significant problem in our nations, and these statistics show that drunk bicycling is just a much—maybe even more—of a problem.

Staying Safe while Cycling

Most cyclists don’t think a lot about bicycle safety on an ongoing basis. But when they get into an accident, it puts things in perspective. In looking at the injury and fatality statistics, one can map out a cycling strategy that can increase the odds of avoiding an accident.
Some things you can avoid like driving impaired which will have an instant impact on lowering your risk of an injury accident or fatality. At other times, if you realize you are cycling in high-risk areas or are in a high-risk group, you can take steps to increase safety.

Contact a Bicycle Accident Attorney

If you do find yourself in an accident with an injury, you need to talk to an attorney who can advise you of your rights under the law and who can evaluate your specific case. At Bay Area Bicycle Law, we are avid cyclists ourselves and uniquely aware of the dangers cyclists face when riding in the city. We are the only law firm in northern California that deals exclusively with bicycle law.
We know how difficult the driver’s insurance company can be, and we have the experience in getting injured cyclists the compensation they deserve under the law. Start putting someone on your side, call us at (415) 466 8717 or click here to contact us online. If you still wonder if we’re the right firm for you or even if you need an attorney, read this this for help answering these questions.

COVID-19 Update: Bay Area Bicycle Law, P.C. is working safely from home and remains available to discuss your case with you. Call us now for your free consultation: (415) 466-3104