The League of American Bicyclists has put out a report full of some disturbing data about the way that cyclists die in collisions in this country. The Every Bicyclist Counts report illustrates just how rarely cyclists are at fault in the event of a fatal crash.
I looked at the reports on cycling deaths her in San Francisco over the last couple years to see if they line up with the data that the League of American Bicycles has released.
The collision data available on San Francisco cycling fatalities is right inline with the statistics in the Every Cyclist Counts report. A large majority of the cyclist fatalities recorded in the last few years are rear-end collisions or collisions where the driver is overtaking the cyclist. The data collected by the League of American Bicyclists matches the last information about collision types recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as well.
According to the League of American Bicyclists, 40 percent of cyclists killed by vehicles in this country are struck from behind. No other collision type ranked over 11 percent (cyclist side/car front). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of cycling fatalities in the United States take place on urban arterial roads, with a near-even split between intersection and non intersection-related accidents.
Half of the cycling fatalities in the last several years in San Francisco have been caused by a vehicle overtaking a cyclist. These accidents take place outside of intersections. There have also been several rear-end collisions or reports of vehicles running over cyclists. In most of other remaining cases, the cyclist was the victim of a right-hook, or was overtaken by a turning vehicle. In only one case did there seem to be any indication that the cyclist was traveling the wrong way on a one-way - in all the other fatalities, the motorist was almost certainly at fault.
The majority of the fatal collisions in San Francisco take place on urban arterial streets. Van Ness, Folsom, Bryant, King, Oak, Mission, 6th, Masonic, are all at least collectors if not major arterial streets.
What does this all tell us about cycling deaths in San Francisco? First and foremost that they are mostly preventable. Simple bike lanes with barriers on the major arterial streets where many of these accidents take place would protect cyclists from cars with inattentive or careless drivers. Lowering speed limited on those arterial streets would also likely help prevent fatal collisions. As I've discussed before, the chances of a pedestrian or cyclist being killed when struck by a car goes up dramatically when the vehicle is traveling faster than 25 mph.
This data -- combined with ridership information like that data from Strava I talked about last week -- could go into planning out bike infrastructure that could all but put an end to cycling fatalities. That sounds like a pretty good goal to me. In fact, it is the city's goal -- remember Vision Zero?
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.