Cycling is growing in popularity with more bicyclists commuting to work, bicycling for exercise and participating in bike ride share programs. The disturbing aspect of this popularity, however, is the rise of cyclist deaths in California and this country in bike crashes.

More cyclist fatalities in California

 In 2017, there were 783 bicyclist deaths in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This was a 25 percent rise since 2010.

California, Florida and Texas had approximately 41 percent of bicyclist deaths in this country even though these states have only 27 percent of the population. Five California cities were among the 20 most dangerous cities for bicyclists in the nation.

These rankings came from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and were calculated on the average number of cyclist deaths in these cities from 2014 though 2017 per 100,000 estimated cycling commuters for 2017. All these cities had populations of at least 100,000 with at least one bicyclist death per year.

San Bernardino had the third highest number of bicyclist deaths in the United States per capita with seven deaths over the last four years or 578 fatalities per 100,000 commuters. Chula Vista was sixth with five deaths, Stockton was seventh with nine deaths; Bakersfield was eleventh with nine fatalities; and, Modesto was seventeenth with four deaths.

The most dangerous city in the country was Cape Coral, Florida. It had 5.8 fatalities per 100,000 residents.

This dangerous trend continued in 2018. The NHTSA reported that there were 857 bicyclist killed in traffic accidents that year.

Accident circumstances 

Other data further illuminates the circumstances surrounding this problem. First, cyclists over 45 are more prone to become involved in a fatal accident. Almost 60 percent of cyclist deaths involved victims over 45 between 2014 and 2017.

Over 60 percent of fatal bike accidents took place on open roads and outside intersections. The motorist was at fault in 38 percent of bike accidents involving a fatality while the cyclist was at fault only 31 percent of the time. Fault was unreported or unknown in the remaining accidents.

The most dangerous areas of the country were in the southeastern United States. States in this region had higher than lower than average rate of bicyclist commuters. Dangerous road conditions may account for this. Daylight savings time switches, a time period which affects cyclist safety, have a larger impact in these states.

Most deaths throughout the year occur between 6:00 and 9:00 pm. Urban areas had 75 percent of the fatal accidents. In 2017, there were eight times more deaths for male bicyclists. Alcohol played a role in 37 percent of all bicycle accidents involving a bicyclist in 2017.

Prevention

While bicyclists can take steps to avoid injuries and have responsibilities, such as wearing a helmet and following traffic laws, drivers play a large role.

First, they must recognize that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. Drivers should yield to bicyclists and cannot underestimate their speed. This helps prevent turning in front of a bicyclist traveling on a road, sidewalk, intersection or driveway.

Motorists must obey speed limits, reduce speed for conditions and drive defensively. Drivers should give room to cyclists and pass bicyclists when in it safe to drive over into the adjacent lane.

Slow vehicle speeds still cause a serious crash impact and may cause serious harm to bicyclist. Drivers should search their surroundings for bicyclists and other vehicles in parking lots, when backing up or at stop signs.

While turning right on red, motorists should look to their right and right to avoid crashing into a bicyclist coming from the right rear. They should also come to a complete stop and look left-right-left before turning right on red.

Victims of these serious accidents or their families may be entitled to compensation when a motorist was reckless or negligent. An attorney can help determine fault and pursue this right in negotiations or in court.