In 2016 (the year with the most recent available data), 840 bicyclists were killed within the United States in motor vehicle crashes (National Highway Traffic Safety Association, “Traffic Safety Facts,” 2018). More details of the latest data on bicycle accidents and fatalities will follow:
How many bicyclists are killed each year?
The 840 American bicyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2016 represent greater than two deaths every single day. These fatalities made up 2.2 percent of total fatalities.
Unfortunately, this number has increased from 2015, when 829 people were killed. And more broadly, the trend over the preceding decade shows an increase as well. In 2007, there were 701 bicyclist fatalities, which made up 1.7 percent of the total fatalities. That is an increase of nearly 20 percent in total bicycling fatalities from 2007 to 2016.
How many bicyclists are injured each year?
Bicycling injury estimates for 2016 were not available to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). However, the most recent data on bicyclist injuries shows an estimated bicyclist 45,000 injuries in the U.S. in 2015, which is only slightly less than the 50,000 injuries estimated in 2014 (NHTSA, “Traffic Safety Facts,” 2017).
It is important to note, however, that this data is likely heavily skewed, and actual injury rates may be much higher. Research examining hospital records reveals that as few as ten percent of injuries resulting from bicycle crashes make it into police records (National Safety Council Nebraska, “Bicycle Safety”).
Bicycle Accident Basic Facts: Overview
- Bicyclist deaths in 2007: 701
- Bicyclist deaths in 2016: 840
- Increase in bicyclist fatalities from 2007 to 2016: 8 percent
- Bicyclist injuries in 2015 (estimated): 45,000
- Bicyclist injuries in 2006 (estimated): 44,000
- Increase in bicyclist injuries from 2006 to 2015 (estimated): 3 percent
- The yearly cost of bicyclist injury and death: more than $4 billion (Midland Reporter-Telegram)
Is bicycling an especially dangerous form of travel?
In light of the thousands of bicycling injuries and deaths described above, bicycling can be undeniably risky. Although bike trips make up an estimated 1 percent of daily trips in the United States (“Walking and Bicycling in the United States”), they made up 2.2 percent of all U.S. traffic fatalities in 2016 (NHTSA). Nevertheless, despite this risk, many people choose bicycling as a form of transportation and/or recreation—12.4 percent of Americans cycled on a regular basis in 2016 (Statista). They may be especially persuaded by its health or environmental benefits.
It is difficult to make an assessment of the risks involved in biking based on the data we currently have. We lack exposure data, for which we’d need to know how many miles bicyclists are traveling and how long they’re spending in proximity to vehicle traffic, among other info. There are many factors that affect the risk based on exposure: rider skill/experience, location (urban vs. rural), alcohol consumption, time of day, and more.
Is it getting safer to be a bicyclist?
Although there was a decline of 3 percent in bicycling fatalities from 2013 to 2014, the number has since increased in 2015 and 2016. But these numbers alone don’t tell us enough about the safety of bicycling. For that, we’d need to know how many people are riding their bikes, where they’re biking, and for how long. Only then could we determine whether biking conditions are truly safer.
Read our post on California Bicycle Laws .
Who is experiencing bicycle fatalities?
For a detailed overview of the demographics of those killed in bicycle crashes, view NHTSA’s 2016 traffic safety data here. Here are several of the most significant findings:
- 84 percent of cyclists killed in 2016 were male; the fatality rate per million people was 5.6 times higher for males than females.
- The average age of bicyclists killed in 2016 was 46.
- The last decade has seen an increase in the average age of bicyclists killed in bicycling accidents—in 2007, it was 40.
- 51 percent of fatalities occurred in daylight, while 45 percent happened after dark.
- Greater than 26 percent of bicyclists who were killed in 2016 had blood alcohol concentrations greater than or equal to .01 g/dL.
- In 2016, a large majority of bicycling fatalities took place in urban areas (71 percent), rather than rural locations (29 percent).
- California (147), Florida (138), and Texas (65) had the highest number of 2016 bicyclist fatalities in the country. There were no such fatalities in South Dakota or Hawaii during that year.
Most frequent causes of injury
According to the most recent available data, in NHTSA’s 2012 National Survey of Bicyclist & Pedestrian Attitudes & Behavior, these are the six most common sources of injury:
|Source of injury||Percentage|
|Hit by a car||29%|
|Roadway/walkway not in good repair||13%|
|Rider error/not paying attention||13%|
|Dog ran out||4%|
PeopleForBikes’ U.S. Bicycling Participation Benchmarking Report
People For Bikes’ report on biking participation in the U.S. looked at how many Americans bike, how often and where they go. Here’s what they found:
- 32% of Americans (older than 3) rode a bicycle at least once in the past year. However, 50% of adults in the U.S. do not have access to an operational bicycle at home.
- Americans who use a bicycle as a means of transportation are more likely to have done so to get to and from social, recreation, or leisure activities (73%) than to have commuted to and from work or school (51%).
- 54% of adults see bicycling as a convenient way to get from one place to another and 51% would like to ride more often. However, 53% worry about being hit by a car. 47% say they would be more likely to ride a bicycle if vehicles and bicycles were physically separated.