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Bicycle Safety

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

	photo: helmet hanging from bicycle handlebars

Bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head and brain injuries in the event of a crash.

How big is the problem?

Deaths and Injuries

In 2013 in the U.S., over 900 bicyclists were killed and there were an estimated 494,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries.3

Cost

Data from 2010 show fatal and non-fatal crash-related injuries to bicyclists resulted in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $10 billion.3

What are the major risk factors?

  • Adolescents and young adults (15-19 years) and adults aged 40 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 more than one-third 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.4

How can bicycle-related injuries and deaths be prevented?

Effective Interventions

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.5 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.6

Bicycle helmet laws for adults

These laws increase helmet use among adults.6

Promising Interventions

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.6
  • Retro-reflective clothing can make bicyclists more visible at night.6
  • 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.6
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.

Related Pages

References

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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 04/11/2016.
  4. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts, 2013 data – bicyclists and other cyclists. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation; 2015. (Publication no. DOT HS 812 151).
  5. Attewell RG, Glase K, McFadden M. Bicycle helmet efficacy: a meta-analysis. Accid Anal Prev 2001;33:345-52.
  6. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Countermeasures that work: A highway safety countermeasures guide for State Highway Safety Offices, 8th edition. (Report No. DOT HS 812 202). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2015.

 

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