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Highest ever reported number of people killed while biking in 2022 

The tragedy of people being killed while biking continues to increase. This, despite the multitudes of federal, state, and local agencies saying they are dedicated to eradicating roadway deaths. Our collective voices demanding safer roads continue to be needed, because everyone deserves to get home safely. 

Unfortunately, 2022 was the deadliest year for people biking on record — ever. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released 2022 fatality data showing that more bicyclists were killed by people driving motor vehicles than in any previous year reported by NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). 

According to NHTSA FARS data, 1,105 people riding bicycles were killed by a person operating a motor vehicle on a public road. FARS has existed since 1975 and the previous high was in its first year of reporting when 1,003 people riding bicycles were killed.

Why did fatalities go up so much? 

There are many questions about why more people riding bicycles are being killed, and many questions have unsatisfying answers due to a persistent lack of good data on many aspects of bicycling in the United States. Common questions include:

  • Is this due to more people bicycling?
    • No, there is no data from the federal government suggesting that there has been an increase in bicycling. Whether annual estimates from the Census Bureau on commuting to work or occasional surveys from the Federal Highway Administration, available data from public agencies suggests that bicycling is flat or declining. No federal data attempts to estimate bicycle miles traveled on an annual basis.
  • Is this due to distraction?
    • No, data from NHTSA shows that fewer than 10% of bicyclist deaths involve distraction and the rate of distraction-involved bicyclist fatalities has decreased in recent years. This NHTSA data is police-reported and NHTSA has noted that many police reports do not have consistent reporting methods for distraction.
  • Is this due to large pickup trucks?
    • No, data from NHTSA shows that pickup trucks have not increased their share of deadly bicyclist and pedestrian crashes in recent years. Sport Utility Vehicles have increased their share of deadly bicyclist and pedestrian crashes, and research shows that vehicles with taller, blunter, front ends designs cause more harm.
  • Is this due to poor bicycle infrastructure?
    • Likely, but no national data on bicycle infrastructure exists and NHTSA data on where a bicyclist was killed groups bike lanes with shoulders and parking lanes.

What we do know is that more can be done to address bicyclist safety. 

  • Safer cars: As we have been asking NHTSA since 2015, bicyclist safety could be improved by adopting public testing of Automatic Emergency Braking systems available on new vehicles that can detect and mitigate or fully avoid a crash with a person bicycling.
  • Safer roads: Bicyclist safety could be improved by greater promotion and implementation of protected bicycle infrastructure. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has yet to update its Bicycle Design Guide from 2012 and does not currently include protected bike lanes in their guidance. Just this year, the new Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) was updated to include protected bike lanes after 15 years without an update. Despite several campaigns led by the League and others, the Federal Highway Administration has not yet promoted bicycle safety and protected bike lanes through their Every Day Counts technology promotion program.
  • Safer speeds: Bicyclist safety could be improved by embracing slower speed limits for urban and residential districts. The League’s #SlowRoads Save Lives initiative encourages a positive culture of speed management that embraces slower speed limits for their ability to reduce injury and death. NHTSA has done little to promote speed limit law best practices or reform, with their last compilation of speed limit laws being over a decade old, and nonsensical messages such as “Speeding Slows You Down.” FHWA has done better and has indicated it is developing a comprehensive guide for speed limit setting. Many state Departments of Transportation continue to promote the “85th percentile” as the best approach to speed limit setting, ignoring injury severity statistics for people outside of vehicles.

There is one caveat to this reported number. For 2022, people riding motorized bicycles were grouped with bicyclists rather than as drivers or occupants of motor vehicles. While NHTSA could have reported the impact of this change, they did not. In previous years, fewer than 100 people riding mopeds or motorized bicycles have been killed annually. The change in reporting means that mopeds are grouped with motorcycles and motorized bicycles are grouped with bicyclists. In the last year (2020) that motorized bicyclist fatalities were reported as their own group, 32 deaths were reported. Even with this uncertainty, it is likely that 2022 had the most reported bicyclist fatalities in NHTSA’s history.

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