For twelve months the League of American Bicyclists recorded the circumstances around the deaths of US bicyclists, compiling them into a project they refer to as the Every Bicyclist Counts initiative. While it did not keep up with the bicyclist deaths recorded by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)*, it was able to flesh out some of the details that FARS does not record.
The Initiative discovered that forty percent of bicyclists are killed by cars slamming into them from behind. The likelihood of rear-end collision starts to make sense when matched with the “motorists’ behavior during accident” statistic, which observed that 42% of drivers were inattentive as they drove.
This could be the pattern: a motorist drives up behind a cyclist on a road and immediately has to slow. The driver is aware of the cyclist and maintains a steady pace, but his or her attention flashes out to the music, a text message, or getting a piece of gum out of a bag. The driver fails to modulate his or her speed relative to the cyclist, and overtakes the bike.
Another scenario that could happen: the impatient motorist, irked that he or she has to slow down behind a bicycle, tries to pass the slow moving cyclist, but doesn’t want to take up too much of oncoming traffic’s lane. In trying to pass the cyclist, the motorist clips them.
The Initiative found that forty-four percent of bicyclists’ deaths occur on urban arterial roads, which are roads with heavy traffic flows. These roads are designed to get commuters across cities to highways or expressways. Motorists might find themselves frustrated with having to deal with cyclists on their busy commute.
Drawing out common themes and narratives from these numbers helps create more clarity for yourself as a motorist or cyclist. Be aware of your surroundings, and read the rest of the report here.
*The Every Bicyclist Counts Initiative only used media reports like newspapers, TV reports, and blogs to track bicyclist fatalities. It did not have the resources of FARS. The creators of the Every Bicyclist Counts Initiative point out that where the data between the Initiative and FARS overlap the studies come to the same conclusions.