Bicyclists | 2009

Less than two percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists. The most serious injuries among a majority of those killed are to the head, highlighting the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85 percent. Thompson, R.S.; Rivara, F.P.; and Thompson, D.C. 1989. A case-control study of the effectiveness of bicycle safety helmets. New England Journal of Medicine 320:1361-67. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have helmet laws applying to young bicyclists; none of these laws applies to all riders. Local ordinances in a few states require some or all bicyclists to wear helmets. A nationwide telephone survey estimated that state helmet use laws increase by 18 percent the probability that a rider will wear a helmet. Rodgers, G.B. 2002. Effects of state helmet laws on bicycle helmet use by children and adolescents. Injury Prevention 8:42-46. Helmets are important for riders of all ages, especially because 87 percent of bicycle deaths are persons 16 and older. During the past few years, only about 1 in 10 fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Trends

A total of 630 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2009. Bicyclist deaths were down 37 percent since 1975. The decline since 1975 among female bicyclists (56 percent) was larger than the decline among male bicyclists (33 percent). In every year since 1975, many more male than female bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes.

Bicyclist deaths by gender, 1975-2009

Bicyclist deaths by gender, 1975-2009
YearMaleFemaleTotal*
Num%Num%Num
197582082183181,003
19767518216318914
19777307919221922
19787148017820892
19797598117319932
19807828118319965
19817488018119936
19827208314417864
19837008413016830
19846848215318838
19857328413716869
19867898514015929
19878268811412940
19887738612814901
19896968512615822
19907328612114853
19917158612114836
1992627879013717
19937028710413806
19946878610914796
19956998412815828
19966548610714761
1997712889912811
1998658879913757
1999656879413750
2000613897611689
2001657907210729
2002590897311663
2003554887111626
2004626879613722
2005687889712784
2006675889412769
2007616888312699
2008624879213716
2009549878113630
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 reportedly weren't wearing helmets. Information on helmet use became available in FARS in 1994.

Bicyclist deaths by helmet use, 1994-2009
YearNo helmet useHelmet useTotal*
Num%Num%Num
199477697192796
199578395344828
199673196274761
199778597233811
199874198162757
199969893426750
200062290507689
200161684608729
200258989548663
200353585589626
2004602838712722
2005676867710784
200673095375769
200764692507699
200865491598716
200957491538630
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Twenty-eight percent of bicyclists age 16 and older killed in 2009 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured bicyclists age 16 and older with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent, 1982-2009
YearBicyclists killedEstimated bicyclists killed with BAC ≥ 0.08
NumNum%
198244612428
198339210828
198441510024
19854358920
198648511223
198749412425
198850212625
198944911526
199055113124
199153014828
199241810826
199350013427
199449512926
199554216230
199650713026
199756014426
199852615229
199953716831
200049615231
200157016629
200250314629
200348113929
200456914125
200563617828
200665318228
200758615526
200861815525
200954515228

When they died

Bicyclist deaths in 2009 peaked during the warm weather months of June-August (12 percent in each month) and were least likely to occur during the winter months of January and February (4 percent in each month).

Distribution of bicyclist deaths by month, 2009
MonthDeaths%
January274
February264
March386
April477
May549
June7612
July7812
August7512
September6010
October579
November569
December366
Total630100

Bicyclist deaths in 2009 occurred most often during the hours of 3pm-6pm (19 percent) and 6pm-9pm (22 percent).

Distribution of bicyclist deaths by time of day, 2009
Time of dayDeaths%
Midnight-3am467
3am-6am315
6am-9am7211
9am-noon6811
Noon-3pm7712
3pm-6pm11719
6pm-9pm13822
9pm-midnight8013
Total*630100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Age

Deaths among bicyclists younger than 16 have declined 87 percent since 1975, while deaths among bicyclists 16 and older increased 69 percent. Deaths of bicyclists younger than 16 were 13 percent of all bicyclist deaths in 2009.

Percent of bicyclist deaths by age, 1975-2009
Year< 16≥ 16Total*
Num%Num%Num
197567567323321,003
19766056630633914
19776136630633922
19785706432036892
19795525937340932
19805295543145965
19814795143847936
19824134844652864
19834345239247830
19844104941550838
19854244943550869
19864354748552929
19874434749453940
19883934450256901
19893714544955822
19902923455165853
19913003653063836
19922974141858717
19933033850062806
19942943749562796
19952783454265828
19962483350767761
19972483156069811
19982293052669757
19992112853772750
20001912849672689
20011552157078729
20021532350376663
20031432348177626
20041492156979722
20051421863681784
20061111465385769
20071061558684699
2008941361886716
2009851354587630
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Where they died

Many more bicyclists were killed in urban areas than in rural areas in 2009 (69 percent compared with 30 percent). In 1975, bicyclist deaths occurred equally in rural and urban areas.

Bicyclist deaths by land use, 1975-2009
YearUrbanRuralTotal*
Num%Num%Num
197549750506501,003
19764705144449914
19775435937541922
19785326035039892
19795415836739932
19805635839040965
19815285637140936
19824905736442864
19835026032439830
19844915934641838
19855155935341869
19865676136139929
19875325740643940
19885255837442901
19895206330237822
19905236133039853
19915396429736836
19924486226537717
19934916131339806
19944776031840796
19955406528434828
19964946526535761
19975196428936811
19984796327737757
19994846526635750
20004226125136689
20014786625134729
20024506821132663
20034356918930626
20044776624234722
20055396924331784
20065557220927769
20075007219728699
20084916922231716
20094366918930630
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Thirty-six percent of bicyclist deaths in 2009 occurred at intersections

Bicyclist deaths by junction type, 2009
IntersectionNon-intersectionTotal*
Num%Num%Num%
2273640264630100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Fifty-eight percent of bicyclist deaths in 2009 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, and 36 percent occurred on minor roads. Forty-nine percent of deaths among bicyclists younger than 16 and 34 percent of deaths among bicyclists 16 and older occurred on minor roads.

Bicyclist deaths by age and road type, 2009
Road typeChild bicyclist deaths (< 16)Adult bicyclist deaths (≥ 16)All ages*
Num%Num%Num%
Interstates and freeways11285295
Other major roads41483266036758
Minor roads42491833422536
All road types*85100545100630100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

References