RTC Responds to Misleading Report on Bicycle Fatalities

Posted 11/03/14 by Kevin Mills in Trail Use, Policy

Photo © Rails-to-Trails-Conservancy/Jake Lynch

Over the past few days Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has been working with the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking to respond to a number of troubling media reports about bicycling fatalities.

The Governors' Highway Safety Association report examining bicycle fatalities in the United States, while, appreciated for its focus on such important topic, unfortunately contained data analysis and rhetoric that were inaccurate and misleading. We hope for better from our state highway safety offices.

Unfortunately, a number of high profile media outlets ran stories on the report that failed to examine the accuracy of its key findings and narrative focus.

Luckily, there were a number of media outlets and experts willing and able to give the report more thorough analysis.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's research and policy staff helped spearhead an effort to educate our partners in the media as to the reality of biking in the U.S., its popularity, and its importance to the future of our transportation system.

The Los Angeles Times ran a letter co-authored by our president, Keith Laughlin, calling attention to the important fact that, accounting for the increased level of cycling in the United States, the cyclist fatality rate fell by a dramatic 79 percent. 

Countering the report's key assertion that bicycling was becoming more dangerous, Drs. John Pucher and Ralph Buehler, authors of City Cyclingwrote that:

"Using official data from the US Department of Transportation, the total number of bike trips more than tripled from 1,272 million in 1977 to 4,081 million in 2009. During the same period, the number of cyclist fatalities fell from 922 in 1977 to 628 in 2009, a decrease of 32 percent.  Taking into account the increased level of cycling, the cyclist fatality rate fell by a dramatic 79 percent. In short, cycling has become roughly four times safer per bike trip over the past three decades."

We know that bicycle safety is improving as we build more safe places to ride, and as the number of people riding regularly continues to grow.

We still have much to do to ensure everyone feels safe and has a safe ride, but with your continued help we'll build the trail and active transportation networks that will provide safe routes for all. 

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