Bicyclists | 2011

Two percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists. In a majority of these deaths, the most serious injuries were 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, not just young bicyclists. Eighty-four percent of bicycle deaths are persons 20 and older. During the past few years, no more than 15 percent of 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 675 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2011, a 10 percent increase from 2010. Bicyclist deaths were down 33 percent since 1975.  Deaths among bicyclists younger than 20 have declined 87 percent since 1975, while deaths among bicyclists 20 and older have increased 167 percent.  The decline since 1975 among female bicyclists (46 percent) was larger than the decline among male bicyclists (30 percent). In every year since 1975, many more male than female bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles.  

Bicyclist deaths by age and gender, 1975-2011
Year<20 years ≥20 yearsTotal*
Males FemalesMales Females
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
1975 638 64 148 15 180 18 32 3 1,003 100
1976 568 62 130 14 180 20 33 4 914 100
1977 543 59 159 17 184 20 33 4 922 100
1978 531 60 140 16 182 20 37 4 892 100
1979 534 57 130 14 219 23 42 5 932 100
1980 511 53 132 14 268 28 49 5 965 100
1981 477 51 127 14 260 28 53 6 936 100
1982 428 50 91 11 288 33 52 6 864 100
1983 463 56 85 10 233 28 45 5 830 100
1984 405 48 98 12 268 32 53 6 838 100
1985 435 50 86 10 288 33 50 6 869 100
1986 459 49 85 9 322 35 54 6 929 100
1987 470 50 77 8 353 38 37 4 940 100
1988 415 46 75 8 353 39 52 6 901 100
1989 374 45 75 9 320 39 51 6 822 100
1990 319 37 56 7 403 47 65 8 853 100
1991 290 35 66 8 419 50 55 7 836 100
1992 290 40 51 7 335 47 39 5 717 100
1993 304 38 58 7 395 49 46 6 806 100
1994 293 37 61 8 387 49 48 6 796 100
1995 263 32 63 8 430 52 64 8 828 100
1996 246 32 52 7 402 53 55 7 761 100
1997 271 33 48 6 438 54 51 6 811 100
1998 235 31 41 5 421 56 58 8 757 100
1999 229 31 44 6 425 57 50 7 750 100
2000 201 29 30 4 410 60 46 7 689 100
2001 174 24 31 4 479 66 41 6 729 100
2002 157 24 32 5 426 64 41 6 663 100
2003 159 25 29 5 394 63 42 7 626 100
2004 144 20 44 6 478 66 52 7 722 100
2005 149 19 30 4 532 68 67 9 784 100
2006 131 17 23 3 539 70 71 9 769 100
2007 120 17 25 4 489 70 58 8 699 100
2008 111 16 24 3 509 71 68 9 716 100
2009 95 15 23 4 454 72 56 9 628 100
2010 81 13 18 3 448 73 65 11 616 100
2011 81 12 23 3 491 73 76 11 675 100

Sixty-seven percent of bicyclists killed in 2011 reportedly were not wearing helmets. Information on helmet use became available in FARS in 1994.

Bicylist deaths by helmet use, 1994-2011
YearNo helmet useHelmet use Unknown Total
Number%Number%Number%Number%
1994 776 97 19 2 1 0 796 100
1995 783 95 34 4 11 1 828 100
1996 731 96 27 4 3 0 761 100
1997 785 97 23 3 3 0 811 100
1998 741 98 16 200 757 100
1999 698 93 42 6 10 1 750 100
2000 622 90 50 7 17 2 689 100
2001 616 84 60 8 53 7 729 100
2002 589 89 54 8 20 3 663 100
2003 535 85 58 9 33 5 626 100
2004 602 83 87 12 33 5 722 100
2005 676 86 77 10 31 4 784 100
2006 730 95 37 5 2 0 769 100
2007 646 92 50 7 3 0 699 100
2008 654 91 59 8 3 0 716 100
2009 573 91 52 8 3 0 628 100
2010 429 70 94 15 93 15 616 100
2011 450 67 100 15 125 19 675 100

It is estimated that 25 percent of bicyclists age 16 and older who were killed in 2011 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, 1982-2011
YearBicyclists killedEstimated bicyclists killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumberNumber%
1982 446 124 28
1983 392 108 28
1984 415 100 24
1985 435 89 20
1986 485 112 23
1987 494 124 25
1988 502 126 25
1989 449 115 26
1990 551 131 24
1991 530 148 28
1992 418 108 26
1993 500 134 27
1994 495 129 26
1995 542 162 30
1996 507 130 26
1997 560 144 26
1998 526 152 29
1999 537 168 31
2000 496 152 31
2001 570 166 29
2002 503 146 29
2003 481 139 29
2004 569 141 25
2005 636 178 28
2006 653 182 28
2007 586 155 26
2008 618 155 25
2009 543 149 27
2010 547 127 23
2011 608 151 25

When they died

Bicyclist deaths in 2011 were higher during the warm weather months of June, July, August and September (10 percent, 13 percent, 10 percent and 10 percent, respectively) and were least likely to occur during the winter months of January, February and March ( 6 percent, 5 percent and 6 percent, respectively).

Distribution of bicyclist deaths by month, 2011
MonthDeaths%
January 40 6
February 31 5
March 42 6
April 52 8
May 57 8
June 69 10
July 88 13
August 69 10
September 65 10
October 48 7
November 58 9
December 56 8
Total 675 100

Bicyclist deaths in 2011 occurred more often during the hours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (22 percent).

Distribution of bicyclist deaths by time of day, 2011
Time of dayDeaths%
Midnight - 3 a.m. 47 7
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 30 4
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 62 9
9 a.m. - Noon 71 11
Noon - 3 p.m. 85 13
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 122 18
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 151 22
9 p.m. - Midnight 107 16
Total* 675 100

Where they died

Many more bicyclists were killed in urban areas than in rural areas in 2011 (69 percent compared with 31 percent). In 1975, bicyclist deaths occurred equally in rural and urban areas.

Bicyclist deaths by land use, 1975-2011
YearUrban Rural Total*
Number%Number%Number%
1975 497 50 506 50 1,003 100
1976 470 51 444 49 914 100
1977 543 59 375 41 922 100
1978 532 60 350 39 892 100
1979 541 58 367 39 932 100
1980 563 58 390 40 965 100
1981 528 56 371 40 936 100
1982 490 57 364 42 864 100
1983 502 60 324 39 830 100
1984 491 59 346 41 838 100
1985 515 59 353 41 869 100
1986 567 61 361 39 929 100
1987 532 57 406 43 940 100
1988 525 58 374 42 901 100
1989 520 63 302 37 822 100
1990 523 61 330 39 853 100
1991 539 64 297 36 836 100
1992 448 62 265 37 717 100
1993 491 61 313 39 806 100
1994 477 60 318 40 796 100
1995 540 65 284 34 828 100
1996 494 65 265 35 761 100
1997 519 64 289 36 811 100
1998 479 63 277 37 757 100
1999 484 65 266 35 750 100
2000 422 61 251 36 689 100
2001 478 66 251 34 729 100
2002 450 68 211 32 663 100
2003 435 69 189 30 626 100
2004 477 66 242 34 722 100
2005 539 69 243 31 784 100
2006 555 72 209 27 769 100
2007 500 72 197 28 699 100
2008 491 69 222 31 716 100
2009 436 69 191 30 628 100
2010 439 71 174 28 616 100
2011 465 69 206 31 675 100

Thirty-six percent of bicyclist deaths in 2011 occurred at intersections.

Bicyclist deaths by junction type, 2011
Intersection Non-intersectionTotal*
Number%Number%Number%
242 36 433 64 675 100

Sixty percent of bicyclist deaths in 2011 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, and 35 percent occurred on minor roads. Sixty-one percent of deaths among bicyclists younger than 20 occurred on minor roads, while 64 percent of deaths among bicyclists 20 and older occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways.

Bicyclist deaths by age group and road type, 2011
Road type< 20 years ≥ 20 yearsAll ages*
Number%Number%Number%
Interstates and freeways 3 3 27 5 31 5
Other major roads 39 38 364 64 405 60
Minor roads 61 59 174 31 235 35
All road types* 104 100 567 100 675 100

References