by Nial McCarthy, 24/2/2015
Bicyclist deaths in the United States are on the upward trend. Nationally, fatalities among cyclists increased from 621 in 2010 to 722 in 2012. This correlates with an increase in commuting to work by bicycle. Interestingly, however, an OECD report actually suggests that when a country has more cyclists, it tends to have fewer fatalities.
The “safety in numbers” phenomenon is rather simple to grasp – more cyclists means more awareness among motorists. A lone cyclist in a traffic-choked urban area is far more likely to experience an accident and injury. In countries like the Netherlands and Denmark where people cycle an average of 864 and 513 kilometers each year, the number of cyclists killed per billion kilometers of bicycle travel stands at 10.7 and 14.6 respectively.
Compare that to the United States where the average cyclist travels 47 kilometers in a year. However, the death toll stands at 44 per billion kilometers, pointing towards the fact that the fewer cyclists there are, the more likely accidents and fatalities are to occur. It is also important to point out that cycling has been a way of life in Denmark and the Netherlands for decades and the excellent infrastructure in both countries also keeps cyclists safer.
Why then has the number of deaths among American cyclists increased in line with more commuting to work via bicycle? The OECD report also points out that the “safety in numbers” idea involves a degree of uncertainty. Both cyclists and drivers need time to adapt to each other’s presence. A rapid surge in the number of bicycles on the road may lead to more accidents in the short term until that “safety in numbers” effect kicks in over a longer time period.
*Click below to enlarge (charted by Statista)Source: forbes.com