With increased traffic causing gridlock and longer commute times, more people in cities are getting to work under their own power—by cycling to work.
Philadelphia has more bike commuters per capita than the other ten largest cities in the nation. Recent statistics show that 2.1% of the people in Philly commute by bicycle.
After an all-time high in 2017, the number of bicycle commuters in Philadelphia took a dive in 2018. Since then, the number of people pedaling to work has been on the rise. Preliminary data for 2019 show a 21% increase in the number of cyclists riding to work compared to 2018.
Commuting to work by bike can save you money, improve your physical and mental health, and help the environment. But it doesn’t come without risks.
Are Bike Accidents on the Rise in Philadelphia?
Well, actually, no. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. There may be lower numbers of bike crashes, but more people are getting seriously injured and killed. This is a trend not just for bikes, but for car accidents across the nation.
Early estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the first half of 2021 show an 18% increase in traffic fatalities compared to 2020. That’s startling, considering that there was already a 7.2% increase in deaths in 2020 despite fewer cars on the road.
Bike Safety Statistics
The increased chances of getting hurt on a bike in Philly aren’t terribly surprising, since deaths from all motor vehicle accidents were up a staggering 60% in 2020.
In 2020, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, there were 224 crashes in Philadelphia involving cyclists. In 2019, there were 321.
But in 2019, there were 2 fatalities. In 2020, there were five people killed. Fewer crashes, but more deaths.
In 2020, there were 819 crashes involving bikes in Pennsylvania as a whole, down from 1,020 in 2019.
But, there were 22 people killed in 2020 from 200 fewer crashes. Another 799 people were injured.
In 2019, although there were more bicycle accidents, fewer people (16) people were killed. That year, more people were injured (1,003) compared to 2020.
Nationwide, bicycle injuries are on the rise. In 2019, according to the NHTSA, 25 fewer cyclists died, but 2,000 more cyclists were injured compared to the prior year.
Tips for Bicycle Safety
Even though generally, you have the same rights on the road as a vehicle in Pennsylvania, you should take extra precautions to protect yourself from potential harm while riding your bike to work.
Wear a helmet
No, adult cyclists aren’t required to wear a helmet in Pennsylvania. But you should. Accidents can happen anytime. There isn’t much you can do to protect yourself on a bike. But you should take precautions when you can.
Cars are notorious for not seeing cyclists. Do everything you can to help them see you. In Pennsylvania, if you’re riding at night, you’re required by law to have a white light on the front of your bike, a red reflector on the back, and amber reflectors on the sides. Do more. Use a light on the back, too. And use lights during the day.
Make sure your lights are reliable—keep them charged up or keep extra batteries. Use flashing lights during daylight hours. At night, flashing lights can be disorienting to cars. Consider using steady beam lights, or one steady and one flashing, when it’s dark.
Wear Bright Clothes
Clothes should be considered part of your safety gear. When riding during the day, wear bright colors. If you’re riding to work and it’s not practical to change clothes, consider wearing a fluorescent vest or jacket.
Don’t Wear Headphones
You need to hear what’s going on around you anytime you’re operating a vehicle. On a bicycle, that’s even more important. So don’t use headphones while riding your bike. Plus, it’s against the law in Pennsylvania.
Know and Follow Bicycle Laws
Bicycles are considered vehicles under Pennsylvania law. This means all the rules of the road applicable to cars also apply to cyclists. But there are some other laws specific to bikes. Be a respectful and safe cyclist by knowing and following the law. Some municipalities have additional laws, such as requiring cyclists to have a bell. Be sure to check the area where you’ll be riding.
How to Be a Bike-Friendly Driver
If you’re not one of the many bike commuters around Philly, you can help them out by keeping in mind a few things as you share the road with cyclists.
As a driver, you can:
- Slow down and give cyclists at least 4 feet when passing (it’s not just a nice thing to do, it’s the law).
- Prevent dooring (hitting a cyclist when you open your door after parking). Learn the “Dutch reach.” It’s simply using your opposite hand to open the door when exiting your vehicle. It forces you to turn your body to look over your shoulder to spot a cyclist.
- Take a second look before you turn. It’s the law in Pennsylvania to yield to cyclists if they’re proceeding straight and you’re turning.
In general, just make a conscious effort to be aware that there are more bicycle commuters. It could save someone’s life.
If you do get injured in a bicycle crash, consider consulting a Philadelphia personal injury lawyer to understand your legal options.