Have Cycling Accidents Increased During the Pandemic?

A substantial rise in auto accidents is one interesting development related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 38,680 people died in traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2020 — the largest number since 2007. This spike occurred even though motorists drove 430 billion fewer miles in 2020 relative to 2021, according to the NHTSA.

Most traffic safety organizations placed the blame for the jump on more aggressive drivers. With traffic at record lows, drivers became emboldened to speed and drive recklessly.

That raises another interesting question: How did all of this affect cyclists?

Sharing the Road During a Period of Record Deaths

A recent report from Outside Magazine shed some light on how COVID-19 traffic conditions affected road safety for cyclists. The magazine compiled all available crash data involving cyclists in 2020. Their findings were recently summarized by Advocacy Advance, a safer streets non-profit organization. According to Advocacy Advance, the Outside Magazine study showed the following:

  • An estimated 675 cyclists were killed in accidents during 2020. The previous year’s bicycle fatalities totaled 846.
  • Even though there was a decrease in the number of bicyclist deaths in 2020, traffic was reduced by 41 percent for months at a time in 2020.
  • More than one-fourth of bicycle fatalities were caused by hit-and-run accidents in 2020.
  • The states with the highest numbers of cyclist fatalities were California (118), Florida (90), New York (44), Texas (44 each), and Louisiana (34). Louisiana had the highest number of cyclist deaths per million residents at 7.3 fatalities per one million residents.
  • Bicycle deaths were almost equal on urban roads and rural roads in 2020. About a third of the bicycle deaths occurred on these two types of roads.
  • Arterial roads continue to be very dangerous for bicyclists because of the speed limits and road designs
  • The warmer months from May through August saw the highest number of bicycle deaths in 2020. The highest number of cyclist deaths in 2020 was in July, with 84 fatalities.

While fewer cars on the road led to fewer cyclist deaths in 2020, the long-term trend remains troubling. Cycling accidents have been on a sustained ten-year increase, with 2018 ranking as the worst year in history for cyclist fatalities.

While 2019 offered a slight respite, as traffic volume returns to normal levels, cycling incidents are also returning to their prior levels. Cyclists should continue to practice situational awareness, advocate for safer shared streets — and use the legal system to defend their rights when necessary.

Finding the Right Bicycle Accident Attorney

Gary Brustin is a lifelong cyclist and a specialist in bicycle accident law. In fact, these are the only types of cases he accepts. If you’ve been injured in a collision, we urge you to contact Gary for a complimentary consultation.

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