World-renowned bicyclist Lance Armstrong once said, “If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on.” Armstrong knows as well as anyone that a bike ride can be one of the most exciting and enjoyable experiences.
However, safety must be a top priority while riding bicycles because accidents do occur. According to a study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, in 2011, 677 bicyclists were killed and 48,000 bicyclists were injured. While the number of traffic related fatalities overall have decreased in the last nine years, the number of bicyclist fatalities has remained fairly constant. Therefore, it is important to break down the statistics from the 2011 data concerning bike accidents, in order to determine prevention measures.
The majority, 30%, of fatalities involving bicyclists occurred between 4:00p.m. and 7:59p.m.In 2011, 69% of bicyclists were killed in urban areas and 59% were killed at non-intersections. The average age of bicyclists killed in traffic crashes was 43 and the average age of bicyclists injured in traffic crashes was 32. Male bicyclists are six times more likely to be killed in traffic accidents. In 37% of fatal crashes involving bicyclists alcohol was involved.
As a common time for commuting home from work, it may not be surprising that more traffic accidents occur at this time. Whether bicyclists are leaving work or going on a bike ride after work, more bicycles will be on the roads. At the same time, more vehicles will be on the road as well. With more congestion during rush hour and more free time after work hours, more accidents will inevitably occur. This statistic is probably not shocking since there is often more traffic in urban areas.
For example, the volume of traffic in downtown Milwaukee on any given day is significantly higher than the traffic going through the suburb of Whitefish Bay or a more rural area in Northern Wisconsin. While traffic fatalities are inherently devastating events, there is a positive to the average age of people involved in bicycle accidents. If the age of 43 is the average, a significant portion of adults above age 43 must also be riding their bicycles on a regular basis. If the average age of bicyclists involved in accidents has been increasing over the last ten years, the average age of bicycle users has also been increasing. In a country known for obesity and fast food and high pollution levels, it is a step in the right direction if more people are riding bicycles than in the past. As the promotion of bicycle usage will remain constant, the focus should shift to accident prevention. Characteristically, males have always been portrayed as risk takers. While some studies state faster speeds and riskier behavior among males as the reason for their overrepresentation among accident statistics, other studies account for the difference by showing that males take more trips on average than females. Although alcohol was involved in a high number of cases, the statistic includes both the bicyclist and the driver of the vehicle. Everyone knows it is illegal to drive a vehicle while intoxicated. However, some may not know that in Wisconsin, since bicycles are considered vehicles, riders have the same responsibilities as drivers. Therefore, it is illegal to drink alcoholic beverages and then drive your bicycle. Regardless of whether it was the bicyclist or the driver of the motor vehicle, people need to be more careful and responsible when it comes to alcohol.
Although after hearing the previous statistics, jumping onto your bicycle may seem like a scary idea. However, many of these accidents can be prevented by smart, safe bicyclists. According to the study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in June 2012, the top bicyclist contributing factors to accidents include a failure to yield, disobeying the bicycle laws, and defective equipment. These factors are completely within your control. Another way to increase bike safety is to wear a helmet. The NHTSA said, “A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash.” Therefore, although bicyclists are involved in crashes, you should take the stance of Lance Armstrong and don’t let the fear of an accident or fall keep you from riding your bike.
In the event you have been in an accident on your bike, call the bike accident lawyers at Murphy & Prachthauser for more information.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts 2010 Data Pedestrians. DOT HS 811 625, 1 (2012).
 Karsch, H.M. et al., National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Review of Studies on Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety, 1991-200, DOT HS 811 614, 23 (2012).
 Karsch, H.M. et al., DOT HS 811 614 at 26.
 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. at 2.