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What don’t we know about California bicycle accidents?

It's safe to say that a lot of people ride bicycles in Los Angeles for exercise, recreation and even as their primary mode of transportation. However, statistics can't tell us how many people ride here or anywhere else in the country or where bicyclists go. The information available to authorities and the public is largely based upon reports of bicycle accidents, injuries and deaths.

We know that bicycling makes up just one percent of our preferred modes of transportation in the U.S. What's disturbing to learn is that bike crashes total two percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide. Each day, an average of two bike riders die in accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recorded 726 bicyclist accident deaths in 2012. During the same year, an estimated 49,000 people were injured in bike collisions. The injury rate is only as accurate as hospital records since police records of bicycle injury accidents are inconsistent. Consequently, officials are more certain about fatality rates.

Transportation officials know the most likely candidates to die in bicycle accidents. Eighty-eight percent of 2012 victims were men, with an average age of 43. Sixty-nine percent were killed in urban areas and nearly one in four was intoxicated.

Car accidents were, far and away, the most common cause of injuries among riders nationwide in 2012. The National Survey on Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behaviors, conducted the same year, found that car accidents were responsible for one-third of bike injuries. Bicyclist mistakes, falls and poor riding surfaces were far down the list but still among the top reasons bicyclists were hurt.

Transportation officials can follow year-to-year bicycle fatality trends with some degree of accuracy. With missing gaps in police reports, the same cannot be said about injury trends.

Statistically, we don't know a great deal about bike crashes or bicyclists. It's important to find out more. This information can help victims and families recover compensation from negligent drivers through legal claims.

Source: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, "Pedestrian and Bicyclist Crash Statistics" Dec. 17, 2014

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