Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bicycling safety statistics aren't quite what they seem


Alliance: The News Reports About Bicycling Fatalities Aren't Quite Right. Here's Why.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking -- Just in time for Halloween, a recent bicycle safety report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) came with a spooky press release. "The number of bicyclists killed on U.S. roadways is trending upward," the presser warned.

Media outlets jumped to report the GHSA's conclusions: the LA Times led with the headline "Bicycle traffic deaths soar; California leads nation."

But there are some fundamental issues with the analysis that leads to these spooky conclusions.

Before we start number-crunching, let's examine the assumption that biking is an unsafe activity. In fact, the quantified health benefits of active transportation can outweigh any risks associated with these activities by as much as 77 to 1, and add more years to our lives than are lost from inhaled air pollution and traffic injuries (Rojas-Rueda et al., 2011; Jacobsen and Rutter, 2012).

And the numbers definitely don't tell as clear a story as the press release suggests.

The new GHSA report looks at pure fatality numbers: the number of people who died while biking on U.S. roads in 2010, 2011, and 2012. That number did indeed see a slight uptick in 2012, but has been trending downwards overall: bicyclist fatalities decreased 30% (965 to 677) from 1980 to 2011. [Full article ...]

Poster's note: An interesting article on this topic was featured a year ago in the New York Times: How Safe Is Cycling? It’s Hard to Say

Above: Delaware's numbers are hardly conclusive, ranking anywhere from #1 to #50 where fatalities are concerned. It should be noted that a bicyclist can be anyone on a bike, including those who have lost their license for DUI (common). You can be drunk and/or on the wrong side of the road and be counted.

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