About that 8.7% jump in cyclist fatalities

Just released US NHTSA data shows bike fatalities in 2011 are up 8.7% in spite of an overall 2% decrease in traffic fatalities. Pedestrian fatalities are also up 3%.

NHTSA FARS traffic fatalities 2011 chart

The 2% decline in traffic fatalities outpaces the 1.2% decline in vehicle miles traveled. Unfortunately, no good data is available for “bike miles traveled.” American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census suggests double and triple digit gains in the number of people biking to work.

Every death is too many, and I like efforts that promote a goal of zero road fatalities. It’s helpful to track this stuff on a year-by-year basis, but multi-year comparisons are necessary to make anything more of the data. The number of bike fatalities nationwide is fairly low: 673 cyclists perished on American roads in 2011 vs 622 in 2010, according to the FARS data.

More discussion on this over at the Streetsblog Network.


  1. I don’t know if the Aussies call cyclists “bikers”, but I’m all for it. I used to get haughty about the distinction; I could sniff, “I’m a cyclist, not a biker” with the most devout Forester disciple.

    Then, while living in a place where the early settlers used “biker” as a pejorative to refer to the newcomers who invaded the small town to ride trails, I had an epiphany handed to me. A local heard my spiel about being a cyclist, and he asked, “So, Ron, what’s your favorite kind of bicycling?”

    “Mountain biking,” I said, though he already knew that.

    “And you do that on a mountain bike?” He was smirking now.

    “Um, yes?” I sensed check-mate.

    “So, you’re a mountain cyclist?”

    I knew I was beaten, but it was liberating, as when any minority takes back the language of its oppressors. You want me to be a biker? Fine, I’m a biker. Now give me a PBR can to crush on my head.

    The implication of “I’m not a biker” has always been, “I’m not one of those anti-social, violent, misogynistic one-percenters (the pre-Occupy meaning)”. But instead of feeling somehow insulted by the term, we should embrace it for all the anti-hero qualities which make cultural icons of bikers.

    After all, we choose an outcast status. We take to the roads proud and independent, but we’ve got each other’s backs. Society may look down on us, but that’s only because they’re trapped in tall cages.

    And not only do we tend to enjoy beer, we also know how to convert it to energy to power our bikes. So who’s the real biker?

  2. Oops–somehow I posted that last comment to the wrong story. If you read it, and you’re scratching your head, check out the story about the bike bursting into flames. Richard, feel free to remove the superfluous post. Sorry about that.

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