What we’ve discovered from persecuting bicycle deaths for a yr

(Map data collected by Outside as of December 31, 2020; map generated by BikeMaps.org.)

States with the most deaths

Louisiana, New York, California, Florida, and Texas were the five deadliest states for cyclists based on total deaths. The last three have been the deadliest states for cyclists for years, and New York deaths have also increased – 46 cyclist deaths were reported in 2019, with 29 in New York City alone. While these three states are also the most populous in the country, Florida and California also have the highest number of cycling deaths per million people. And Louisiana had 7.3 cycling deaths per million people, the highest in any state. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of fatal accidents in Louisiana in the past five and thirties has remained in the past five years.

(Image: Jonathan Ver Steegh)

Deaths by location

Surprisingly, our data showed that cyclists died from accidents almost as often in rural areas as in urban areas. Rural arterial roads may lack intersections with four-way traffic lights, and cyclists rarely have a shoulder to drive.

Cycling-Deaths-Chart-2020-4.jpg(Image: Jonathan Ver Steegh)

Deaths by road type

The most dangerous place for cyclists, however, was an arterial road, which we defined as a busy, multi-lane thoroughfare with traffic signals at intersections and speed limits in excess of 30 miles per hour. Arteries accounted for 65 percent of the fatal falls in our database. We have seen that poorly designed intersections along these roads pose serious dangers for cyclists. While many had multiple lanes for cars, they had none for bicycles. In addition, many had speed limits of up to 45 miles per hour. (Speed ‚Äč‚Äčlimits have increased in many parts of the country.) And numerous intersections on arterial roads allow vehicles to turn right or have multiple lanes at a red light, making it much more likely that a driver will not see a cyclist as they turn.

Karen Laberee, CEO of BikeMaps.org, adds that cars making unprotected left turns – those with no dedicated left turn lights – are particularly dangerous as a driver may be wary of other cars going in the opposite direction, but not cyclists or Pedestrian. “A left turn is cognitively a particularly challenging maneuver for a driver – there is a lot going on that he has to process,” says Laberee. One solution is to restrict simultaneous movement with separate light cycles for vehicles turning left, vehicles moving straight ahead, and pedestrians and cyclists, she says. In this way, only vehicles or pedestrians drive through the intersection at a time.

Cycling-Deaths-Diagram-2020-5.jpg(Image: Jonathan Ver Steegh)

Some of the deadliest roads in the country were the Military Trail in West Palm Beach, Florida; Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach, California; and First and Second Streets in Manhattan. These roads each had three cyclist deaths in 2020, and we identified a few factors that may indicate why. The Military Trail is a multi-lane arterial road that only has a protected bike path at a few intersections. Overall, there is no bike path on Beach Boulevard. First and Second Avenues are busy city streets with little space for cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles sharing the street.

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