Far fewer U.S. bike riders are dying in traffic collisions today than they were in 1975. While that's positive news for Los Angeles bicyclists, there's no concrete explanation why the number of people killed in bike accidents has taken a disturbing upward swing over the last few years. In the 1970s, children were the most likely victims of fatal bike crashes – now the most vulnerable group is adult males.
Researchers believe the spike in nationwide bike fatalities – a colossal 16 percent increase between 2010 and 2012 – may be related to a surge in adults commuting by bicycle. It's hard to tell for certain, because police records aren't as detailed about bike crashes as they are about motor vehicle accidents. What's also missing is a tally of riders – no one really knows how many bicyclists are out there.
Analysts do know how many bicycle accidents result in deaths and who is dying. Bicycle fatalities rose from 621 to 722 between 2010 and 2012. Eighty-four percent of the bike accident victims in 2012 were adults and overwhelmingly male adults, who made up nearly 75 percent of all bicyclists killed.
The majority of victims were not wearing helmets – not mandatory for adults in any state. Twenty-eight percent of riders, over age 16, who died were legally intoxicated.
Governors Highway Safety Association researchers noticed bike fatalities were heavily concentrated in urban areas and within six states, including California. About half of U.S. bike fatalities in 1975 were in urban areas. In 2012, that percentage soared to 69 percent.
Analysts admit they don't have definitive answers about the increased bike fatality rate. Researchers, like juries contemplating liability claims, can only work with what is proven.
Even without scientific explanations, California bicyclists realize they face real dangers caused by negligent drivers. Legal claims help victims of bike accidents and surviving family members recover compensation for losses.