A growing number of people in cities are turning to bicycles as their primary means of transportation. Riding a bike is economical and has health benefits. It can also make commuting easier and simpler to find a parking space. However, increased use of old and outdated bike infrastructure is a burden on growing cities that can make conditions unsafe for bikers.
As bicycle use grows in cities, the number of accidents and injuries associated with biking is also on the rise. Surprisingly though, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) shows that the number of fatal crashes involving a bicycle has averaged around 700-800 a year since 1994.
These Cities Pose the Greatest Threat to Cyclists
There are several lists online that rank both the safest and most dangerous cities for bicyclists. The cities are usually rated by several factors. These include data on:
- Accidents and fatalities
- Size of the cities
- Design of roads and infrastructure
- Safety legislation
- Enforcement of laws, and
- Public programs supporting improved safety.
While these lists have some degree of variation, several cities are consistently listed as being some of the worst offenders and the most dangerous cities for bicyclists. These cities are:
5. Cities in Iowa
The whole state of Iowa performs badly when it comes to safety for bicyclists. In a recent study, five out of the top ten most dangerous cities for bicyclists were in Iowa. The worst offenders were Webster City, Waterloo, and Sioux City.
4. Washington, DC
In D.C., biking is becoming more popular and people are turning to this form of transportation to avoid vehicle or metro commuting. Sadly, fatalities involving bikes are on the rise despite several public programs to make biking safer.
Initiatives ranged from increasing fines and retiming lights at intersections to give bikes a chance to begin moving before vehicles. These programs are relatively new, but they do not appear to be stopping the rising number of bike fatalities in the city.
3. Orlando, Florida
Like Iowa, the whole state of Florida ranks poorly on most lists. Orlando, Florida is frequently at the top of these rankings. The city sees a high and steady rate of tourists because both Disney World and Universal Studios are located there. This constant influx of tourists means that a higher number of people will be biking and driving who don’t know state and local laws.
2. New York, New York
New York City is not the place to be if you want to commute by car. To get around, people use numerous modes of transportation like taxis, the subway, walking, and bikes. Despite this, New York City is consistently in the top five of the most dangerous cities for bicyclists.
1. Los Angeles, California
The city of Angels tops many lists as the most dangerous city for bicyclists. This may be because the city, like Orlando, Florida, sees numerous tourists all year round because of its constant sunny climate. Los Angeles is also known for its relentless traffic, so more people are using bicycles more to avoid gridlock.
There is some good news for California. While Los Angeles may be at the bottom of this list, many of the state’s other cities like Davis and San Diego are consistently listed as some of the safest cities. Perhaps Los Angeles can learn a thing or two from adjacent cities that actively make the roads safe for bicyclists.
Bike Accident Risk Factors
If you want to stay safe, there are a few things you can do. First, always obey traffic laws and wear safety gear. This includes a helmet and reflective gear to make yourself visible to drivers and other bikers. Don’t wear headphones or talk on the phone while riding a bike.
Additional data collected by the NHTSA provides insight into what circumstances can make riding a bicycle more dangerous:
- Bike fatalities are more likely to occur in heavily populated regions (cities) than in rural areas
- Most bike fatalities take place away from large intersections
- Over 80% of fatal accidents happen when the front of a car hits a bicycle
- Accidents occurred equally during the daytime and the nighttime
- For males, the highest fatality rates were seen in the age range of 50-to-54 years old
- For females, the age range was 45-to-49 years old
Awareness is also a major factor in bike safety. The study above showed that over 15% of all bike fatalities involved a motor vehicle driver who was intoxicated. This high rate suggests that bikers should be cognizant of the vehicles driving around them. If one is swerving on driving erratically, it is best to avoid driving close to that vehicle.