While only 1% of all trips taken in the U.S. are by bicycle,1 bicyclists face a higher risk of crash-related injury and deaths than occupants of motor vehicles do.2 In 2010 in the U.S., almost 800 bicyclists were killed and there were an estimated 515,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries.3 Data from 2005 show fatal and non-fatal crash-related injuries to bicyclists resulted in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $5 billion.4
What are the major risk factors?
- Adolescents (15-24 years) and adults aged 45 years and older have the highest bicycle death rates.3
- Children (5-14 years), adolescents, and young adults (15-24 years) have the highest rates of nonfatal bicycle-related injuries, accounting for almost 60% of all bicycle-related injuries seen in U.S. emergency departments.3
- Males are much more likely to be killed or injured on bicycles than are females.3
- Most bicyclist deaths occur in urban areas and at non-intersection locations.5
How can bicycle-related injuries and deaths be prevented?
Effective interventions to reduce injuries and fatalities to bicyclists include the following:
- Bicycle helmets: Bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head and brain injuries in the event of a crash.6 All bicyclists, regardless of age, can help protect themselves by wearing properly fitted bicycle helmets every time they ride.
- Bicycle helmet laws for children: These laws are effective for increasing helmet use and reducing crash-related injuries and deaths among children.7
Interventions that have shown promise for reducing injuries and fatalities to bicyclists include the following:
- Active lighting and rider visibility:
- Fluorescent clothing can make bicyclists visible from further away than regular clothing during the daytime.
- Retro-reflective clothing can make bicyclists more visible at night.7
- Active lighting can include front white lights, rear red lights, or other lighting on the bicycle or bicyclist. This lighting may improve the visibility of bicyclists.7
- Bicycle helmet laws for adults: These laws increase helmet use among adults.7
- Roadway engineering measures: Information about roadway engineering measures, like bike lanes, that can improve safety for bicyclists is available from The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.
- Pucher J, Buehler R, Merom D, Bauman A. Walking and cycling in the United States, 2001–2009: Evidence from the National Household Travel Surveys. Am J Public Health 2011;101(S1):S310-S317).
- Beck LF, Dellinger AM, O’Neil ME. Motor vehicle crash injury rates by mode of travel, United States: using exposure-based methods to quantify differences. Am J Epi 2007;166:212-8.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars. Accessed on 03/08/2013.
- Naumann RB, Dellinger AM, Zaloshnja E, Lawrence BA, Miller TR. Incidence and total lifetime costs of motor vehicle-related fatal and nonfatal injury by road user type, United States, 2005. Traffic Inj Prev 2010;11:353-60.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts, 2010 data – bicyclists and other cyclists. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation; 2012. (Publication no. DOT HS 811 624).
- Attewell RG, Glase K, McFadden M. Bicycle helmet efficacy: a meta-analysis. Accid Anal Prev 2001;33:345-52.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Countermeasures that work: A highway safety countermeasures guide for State Highway Safety Offices, 7th edition. (Report No. DOT HS 811 727). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2013.
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