Inadequate Data Poses Challenge in Promoting Bicycle Safety

The New York Times recently ran a report on the mysterious state of bicycling safety in the United States. While there are statistics to clearly indicate the number of people killed in auto traffic accidents every year, the statistics that are related to bicycle collision fatalities and accidents, are often vague. For instance, many bicycle accidents continue to remain unreported, and therefore, the final tally is often not accurate.

It is therefore very difficult to understand whether bicycling is becoming safer for Americans, or more dangerous. There is a lack of adequate data to base any conclusions on. For example, the data is insufficient on critical questions, like the number of accidents that occur per mile driven. There is no relevant data for such questions.

There does not seem to be any distinction made between different types of bicycling. For instance, mountain biking traveling over rough terrain filled with obstacles is very different from recreational bicycling. However, official statistics don’t seem to differentiate between such types of accidents. There are also conflicting views of the strength of the bicycling population in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the annual fatality rate from bicycle accidents ranges from between .26 to.35 per 100,000 population. In 2010, there were 800 bicycle accident fatalities in the United States, comprising one-fortieth of all traffic accident fatalities.

The data doesn’t seem to indicate any trend in bicycle ownership and ridership numbers or in the number of fatal accidents occurring in the country. What is obvious however is that bicycle accident fatality rates are not dropping at the same rate as traffic accident deaths are.

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