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Undercounted bike accidents don't deter California claims

No one really knows how many people ride bicycles in Los Angeles. We have no system locally, statewide or nationally to track the numbers, patterns or habits of bicyclists. It is not clear how many bike accidents go unrecorded.

National and state statistics reflect recorded accidents, not collisions dismissed by police. Research suggests bike crash statistics represent as few as 10 percent of the true number of accidents. So, let's look at the figures we do have.

Deaths caused by bicycle accidents increased nationwide and statewide in 2012, compared to the previous year. Of 726 bicyclists who lost their lives in motor-vehicle related crashes, 124 died in California. Overall bike fatalities across the country fell 7.5 percent between 2001 and 2011 but the injury rate, during the same period, rose 8.9 percent.

Bicycle trips make up an estimated 1 percent of U.S. road journeys. Bike deaths accounted for less than 2 percent of all traffic fatalities and injuries in 2012. While the numbers are small, these figures indicate a disproportionate number of bicyclists were injured or killed in accidents – approximately two bicyclists died every day.

There were 49,000 bicycle accident injuries in 2012, which was not significantly different from years dating back to 2008. Injury rates appear consistent for the time being; they peaked at 68,000 in 1993. We've also seen years of considerably fewer bike injuries – 41,000 injuries were recorded in 2003 or 8,000 fewer than in 2012.

Researchers know injury and death-related bike accidents create economic losses exceeding $4 billion annually. A federal report revealed bicyclists killed in 2012 were 88 percent male with an average age of 43. Crashes involving motor vehicles kill the most bicyclists.

Whether or not bike collisions are counted in studies, California civil courts are prepared to deal with accident liability claims involving negligent drivers. Injured bicyclists may file lawsuits to recover compensation for losses.

Source: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, "Pedestrian and Bicyclist Crash Statistics" accessed Jan. 29, 201

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