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New Report: Every Bicyclist Counts

A terrible string of fatal bike crashes in the Tampa area in late 2011 and early 2012 left the local bike community reeling. 

The results are sobering, eye-opening, and critically helpful in informing the current debate about the need for a non-motorized traffic safety performance measure.

As they shared each awful tragedy with us, we too felt frustrated and powerless. We also realized how little we really knew about the circumstances of serious crashes between bikes and cars, and how woefully inadequate (and late) the available data was at the national level. 

For a 12-month period, we set about the grim task of tracking and documenting every fatal traffic crash involving a bicyclist captured by relevant internet search terms. We also wanted to offer a place to remember the victims and raise the hope that their deaths would at least inform efforts to prevent such tragedies in the future. 

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Elizabeth Kiker for compiling much of this data and to the Ride of Silence and Ghost Bike programs that offer so much comfort to the friends and families of bicyclists killed on the road — and a vital outlet for the outrage felt by everyone that rides a bike when they hear of these needless deaths.  

Over the course of the project we documented 628 fatal bike crashes, a high percentage of the official number of such fatalities recorded by federal authorities. 

Download the report here. 

We wanted to explore how and why these crashes were happening, how they were reported, what was done as a result of the crashes, if blame was assigned, how the motorists were treated, and whether or not there were any consequences for their actions if they were deemed to be at fault in any way. 

The results are sobering, eye-opening, and critically helpful in informing the current debate about the need for a non-motorized traffic safety performance measure.

We learned, for example, that a much higher percentage of fatal crashes than expected — 40% of fatal crashes with a reported collision type — were “hit from behind” incidents — that’s important to know for our education program. Not surprisingly, high-speed urban and suburban arterial streets with no provisions for bicyclists are an over-represented location — representing 56% of all bicyclist fatalities — that’s good information to share with our Bicycle Friendly Community partners. 

We found important new information about why crashes happen, how they are reported, and the scope of enforcement actions taken against motorists -– including common felonies charged and average sentences for 77 convictions related to bicyclist fatalities

Overwhelmingly, however, 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.

That’s critical to know as we work with Congress and the federal agencies to specifically focus on these fatalities through a non-motorized safey performance measure that significantly improves accountability and data collection processes for the future.  

Otherwise, we will have to keep reporting a totally unacceptable and unnecessary death toll on our nation’s roadways.    

Take Action Today: Tell U.S. DOT we must have a national goal to make biking and walking a safe transportation option.