National data shows bike fatalities up 8.7 percent in 2011

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 10th, 2012

Source: BikePortland

New analysis of traffic collision data released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows a decrease in overall fatalities from 2010 to 2011. However, in the “pedalcyclist” category (the strange word the feds use to describe people that are biking) there was an 8.7 percent increase.

The new analysis shows that overall, highway deaths fell to 32,367 in 2011, the lowest level since 1949 and 1.9 percent below 2010. This continues a downward trend in highway deaths in recent years.

A press release issued by the USDOT acknowledged that people drove 1.2 percent fewer miles in 2011 than 2011, but the drop in roadway deaths, “significantly outpaced” that decrease.

NHTSA Fatalities Report 2011

While fatalities declined for people in passenger cars and light trucks/SUVs, four other types of road users saw an increase in deaths. “Fatalities increased among large truck occupants (20 percent), pedalcyclists (8.7 percent), pedestrians (3.0 percent), and motorcycle riders (2.1 percent),” reads the release.

The NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) says 677 people died while bicycling in 2011. That’s up from 623 in 2010. This is a reversal of a significant downward trend in bicycling deaths. In 2005, FARS data shows that 786 people died while biking.

The NHTSA doesn’t offer any further analysis or information about the ‘pedalcyclist’ increase. However, the L.A. Times reported today that, “The NHTSA said 70% of all bicycle-related deaths involve head injuries but that barely one-third of cyclists wear helmets.”

A bit closer to home in Oregon, NHTSA data shows a 4.4 percent increase in overall fatalities from 2010 (317) to 2011 (331). The Oregon Department of Transportation recently reported that deaths to people walking on our roads were up significantly this year, from 42 in 2011 to 55 so far this year. On the bike side of things, there were 13 people killed in Oregon while biking in 2011 and 8 fatal collisions involving a someone on a bike so far this year. In Portland, we’ve had two people killed while biking in 2012.

Read more about the latest numbers and download the report via the NHTSA website.