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Ridership up, crashes down: “Safety in Numbers” in Minneapolis

The average annual number of bicycle/motor vehicle crashes in Minneapolis between 1993 and 1999 was 334. Since 2000, the number has dropped 20 percent to 269.

Why? Are fewer people in Minneapolis riding these days? No.

In fact, according to the US Census and American Community Survey data, the number of Minneapolitans regularly biking to work more than doubled between 1990 and 2008 (3,000 to 8,000). This increase is supported by the city’s counts, which show a 174 percent increase in bicyclists in downtown Minneapolis between 2003 and 2008.

Minneapolis Safety in Numbers

[Click on graphs for larger images. Note: The flat grey line between 1993 and 1999 is because the Census did not have yearly counts until the ACS came around in 2005.]

“People are so used to seeing bicyclists — love them or hate — and they don’t want to hit them,” Shaun Murphy, coordinator of the city’s non-motorized transportation program, told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. He also told the Tribune that the “hot spots” for bike-motorist accidents are not located around the University of Minnesota, where bicycling is common, because drivers there are so used to watching for bikes. Here is that heat map:

Minneapolis heat map crashes

The data from Minneapolis are just the latest example of this counter-intuitive relationship between more bicycling and fewer crashes that has become known as the “safety in numbers” concept after the famous 2003 study from Peter Jacobsen. New York City has shown a similar trend (source: Transportation Alternatives): New York City Safety in Numbers

As has Portland:

Portland Safety in Numbers

Also see this follow up work on Safety in Numbers in Australia.

This is the kind of news we love to report on. Thanks to UrbanVelo for drawing our attention to it. Please let me know (darren [at]  if there are any Safety in Numbers examples that I missed.

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