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Bike Fatalities Are On The Rise

Kaiser Health News

Phillip Reese | 1/30/2020, 11:29 a.m.

died in cycling crashes for every woman who died. In the state, men are about twice as likely

as women to commute to work by bike, the latest census figures show.

Experts cited several ways to cut the number of bike fatalities, starting with a relatively

simple fix: reducing speed limits. “Most people are going to survive a crash if they’re hit at

20 miles an hour,” Griswold said. “But the survival rate drops considerably with each

increase in speed above that.”

Investing in appropriate infrastructure — set up to support a mix of autos, transit, bikes and

pedestrians — is another key. The recent NTSB study calls for increasing the number of

separated bike lanes and well-marked intersections. Boldry noted that increased bike

ridership, especially when combined with good infrastructure, can actually enhance safety.

The reasons for that are unclear, Boldry said, but it could be, in part, because drivers get

used to seeing bikes and adopt safer driving behaviors.

Dave Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition, or CalBike, said many

California cities have made significant progress in improving infrastructure in recent years,

resulting in safer roads for cyclists. Still, he said, more needs to be done in more places.

Some people “see 2,000-pound or larger vehicles going 40 to 60 miles per hour within a few

feet of them, and they think, ‘No way. That’s not safe, and it’s not fun,’” Snyder said.

“There’s no reason why that has to be. There’s no reason why we can’t create networks of

bikeways, even on the main streets, that are protected from that high-speed traffic.”

Another way to lower fatalities is through technology. The NTSB report recommends that

cyclists use reflective gear and bike helmets. Automobile sensors that can detect objects in a

driver’s blind spot are also a boon, though that technology is sometimes better at seeing cars

than at seeing bikes and people.

Boldry said relying extensively on those systems getting better instead of improving

infrastructure would be a mistake.

“We’re optimistic that will help, but we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can on

the design front to eliminate those conflicts from happening in the first place while we’re

waiting on the technology to get good enough to have a positive impact,” she said.

Phillip Reese is a data reporting specialist and an assistant professor of journalism at

California State University-Sacramento.