Arizona has the highest cycling fatality rate?

[updated October 2010: Final data for 2009 has AZ as 4th highest bicycling fatality rate (per capita, i.e. per population). See e.g. this media story referring to the BSAP]

Tied to April being bike month in Arizona is of course a crop of media stories.

Imagine how surprised I was to read that “Arizona has the highest cycling fatality rate, based on population in the United States”. This was from an April 4, 2008 KTAR story Bike Month Focuses on Safety Issues, Laws for Drivers. There is no source for this statistic.

There are a number of weaknesses in reporting or comparing the dangerousness of something like cycling in terms of the general population — still, I happen to know off the top of my head that Arizona isn’t the highest, Florida is the perennial highest, and I doubted that statistic has changed. It turns out that Arizona is third-highest by that measure, behind Florida and Louisiana.

I had some difficulty rounding up these figures, so below for posterity are both the cycling and aggregate traffic fatalities, ranked by overall fatalities per 100M VMT (per 100Million Vehicle Miles Traveled. This is perhaps the most widely followed measure of traffic dangerousness) for 2006, the most recent year available at this writing. On this basis Arizona is the 7th most dangerous state in the nation on overall traffic fatalities. Arizona has a serious traffic fatality problem, of which cyclist fatalities are only a small part. If Arizona could improve itself to merely average, FOUR HUNDRED Arizonans per year would not die on the roadways.

For cycling, the measurement we really want to know, however, isn’t just raw per capita since much of the population doesn’t cycle on a regular basis. Unfortunately there is no accurate state-by-state bicycle usage/exposure data (e.g. the 1991 CPSC data isn’t broken down by state). It has been suggested that the weather in places like Arizona leads to significantly more cycling — and thus on a exposure rate basis is not as bad as the raw population based figure would suggest.

Florida and Louisiana’s pedalcyclist rates were, by the way, far higher than Arizona. With respect to Florida, in addition to having a very high per capita bicycling fatality rate, their pedestrian fatality rate is also high. A report on the FDOT website looks at the pedestrian safety problem and correlates it, at least partially, “to a combination of climate and seasonal variation in length of day”. The factors may (or may not?) apply to bicycling, and may or may not apply to Arizona as well.

2006 Data [source for pedalcyclist, see NHTSA DOT HS 810 802, source for VMT, see DOT HS 810 920]
(sorry about the graphic, if anybody wants the data in a spreadsheet please contact me) State-by-state traffic fatals, 2006

Bike Month Focuses on Safety Issues, Laws for Drivers

April 4th, 2008 @ 8:00am
by Bob McClay/KTAR

It’s Arizona “Bike Month,” and that means a special reminder for Valley drivers.

Arizona has the highest cycling fatality rate, based on population in the United States. Twenty-nine bicycle riders died in Arizona last year.

Andy Clarke is with the League of American Bicyclists and said the 2003 death of Brad Gorman, 26, of Tucson led to one important law. He said Gorman’s family went on a mission to improve bicycle safety after Brad gorman, who used his bike to get to work, was killed by an inattentive driver.

“They were the ones who got passed in the Arizona Legislature the law that you have to give a safe passing distance of three feet or more when you pass a cyclist,” Clarke said.

Drivers do not intend to harm bicycle riders, but in most cases just are not thinking,” Clarke said.

He cited the death two years ago of experienced cyclist Bill Bliss.

“Bill was making a left turn on a highway in Colorado. he was doing everything right, following all the rules of the road — signalling, in the left lane — and a driver who was going too fast for the conditions and wasn’t paying attention hit and killed him,” Clarke said.

“That person never meant for that to happen. But, at the same time, if you’re speeding, if you’re not paying attention, if you’re inattentive, if you’ve been drinking and driving, if you’re going to fast for the conditions, if you’re simply not taking due care, I think we need to hold ourselves collectively more accountable for that.”

Clarke said all motorists should take an extra minute to look out for fellow travelers.

Clarke is joining an effort, led by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. The Perimeter Bicycle Association of America, law enforcement agencies and community agencies also are involved.

Bike Week will be highlighted by the El Tour de Phoenix bicycle race in Phoenix on Saturday. Bikers are invited to ride 26 or 74 miles around the Valley. Short fun rides will be available for kids.

3 thoughts on “Arizona has the highest cycling fatality rate?”

  1. According to a news blurb that appeared in the East Valley Tribune in 2009: “In Arizona, 21 cyclists were killed in 2007, and the state’s average of 3.31 cyclists killed per million population is the eighth-highest fatality rate in the nation.”
    Which sounds about right.

  2. Final 2010 report:
    Traffic Safety Facts: Bicyclists and Other Cyclist 2010

    Here’s the final 2009 report:
    Traffic Safety Facts: Bicyclists and Other Cyclist 2009

    In 2009, tiny Delaware had the highest per-capita rate (far too tiny to constitute a trend), followed by perennially high Florida, then Idaho (also a very small state), then Arizona.
    (note to self: I extracted table 6, state-by-state data, and put it in the AZstats.xls spreadsheet).

    See this article traffic-safety-facts-bicyclists-and-other-cyclists
    for links to more current TSF’s

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