Short answer: As with all modes of transportation, it entails some danger.
Longer answer: yes, similar to the risk of motoring — perhaps twice as risky. but how to measure? (per mile, per trip?). Bike-MV collisions are currently running 2% of all in AZ. Bicycling represents perhaps 1%, i.e. twice the risk.
For the moment, this is going to be a catch-all for links and related info on the topic. Links:
- crash-injury-rates-by-mode-of-travel and crash-injury-rates-by-mode-of-travel-2/ these contain stats on per-trip, and per-mile fatality risk by mode; bike/ped/passenger car/motorcycle
- 2019 The Risk of Dying Doing What We Love published a neat chart that compares a broad range of activities; it uses commercial airline travel as the benchmark and attempts to list an exposure (by time) adjusted risk value; i.e. driving is 4X as dangerous, bicycling is 8X as dangerous (i.e. cycling is twice as dangerous as driving in a car). Motorcycling comes out as 100X, i.e. 25 times worse than driving. (also noted in my article here)
- collection from Ohio Bicycle Federation: “Cycling is Safe” subhead.
- kenkifer.com/bikepages/health/risks.htm now via archive.org
- Mighk Wilson’s essays freedom from fear, and I am not a Bicyclist.
- Another essay in the same vein by a UK sociologist Dave Horton: Fear of Cycling.
- My posts about the books How Risky is it Really? and Free Range Kids.
- Alan Solot: Tucson bike vs. car crashes aren’t increasing March 2016 op-ed style piece breaking down some Tucson-specific figures
- UK gov’t study showing how the usual measures of cycling safety tend to overstate the danger… “This research dispels the idea that risk for UK cyclists is substantially higher than for drivers or pedestrians” “we found that for young male cyclists between 17 and 20 years of age, cycling was markedly safer than travelling by car” “Surveys from many countries show that time spent travelling has remained fairly constant over time at about one hour per day, despite large changes in modal split . This supports the use of risk based on time as being most appropriate for comparing modes with different average speeds”. It covers risk expose measures that tend to favor driving, like comparing per mile, rather than, say, per trip. I think this is all obvious stuff but it’s good to have it quantified, if only for the UK; the same mechanisms seem to be applicable to US. full text: Exposure-Based, ‘Like-for-Like’ Assessment of Road Safety by Travel Mode Using Routine Health Data Jennifer S. Mindell, Deborah Leslie, Malcolm Wardlaw. Here’s a road.cc story about it.
- Rick Vosper has an excellent 3 part series in BRAIN, part one Haunted by the Ghosts of Dead Cyclists addresses the media bias, and danger exaggeration “There is nothing the media likes better than a dead cyclist. Unless it’s a dead cyclist who was not wearing a helmet. That salacious and often completely irrelevant bit is invariably tossed in…”
- Pedestrian danger/risk: “Of the 711 pedestrians who have died in traffic collisions since 2014, only four have been killed by bicycles” — We’ve Blamed Traffic Deaths on Bicyclists Since 1880. What About Drivers?
Good factoid in the article about a bicyclist who plead guilty to a felony (thought to be the ONLY one in history) vehicular homicide in a pedestrian death in 2012 in San Francisco:
Some 4,834 cyclists and 59,925 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in the United States between 1999 and 2009 (the most recent year for which figures are available), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cyclists killed just 63 pedestrians, or about six a year, during the same time period. — NYTimes
That’s about a thousand-to-one ratio of car-ped to bike-ped pedestrian deaths. Car drivers are more dangerous. That was re-quoted by Carl Alviani‘s article widely disseminated entitled Why Bikes Make Smart People Say Dumb Things: “After 15 million miles traveled, the Citibike program has still caused not a single fatality for either pedestrians or riders” (stats as of 2014?) he also ; which lays out a good case that bicycling isn’t particularly dangerous to either riders or other road users. The bikeshare stats were sourced to a slate article Not One Person Has Died on an NYC Bike-Share Bike;
Many places have (re)cited data attributed to a company named Failure Analysis Associates, Inc (now know as Exponent), expressed as # of Fatalities per 1,000,000 Exposure Hours
- Skydiving 128.71 Snowmobiling .88
- General Flying 15.58 Motoring .47
- Motorcycling 8.80 Water skiing .28
- Scuba Diving 1.98 Bicycling .26
- Living 1.53 Airline Flying .15
- Swimming 1.07 Hunting .08
I have been unable to find any primary sources on this data and how it was produced. Though a relatively recent Grist Magazine article Not pedaling can kill you, Alan Durning states “The engineering journal Design News published it with little comment in 1993 in an article on a different subject”, and has some further elaboration.
Motorcycling vs. driving an automobile safety per mile can be relativley precisely measured; it runs about 30X more fatality per mile traveled. Compare e.g. Table 1-35: U.S. Vehicle-Miles (e.g. in 2015 , motorcycling is a bit less than 1% compared to all light-vehicle miles; 19.6B vs. 2.1478T; and of course has proportionately many many times the number of fatalities per mile traveled; easily looked up but it’s like 20,000 light-vehicle deaths compared to 5,000 motorcycle)
Take Back the ‘Burbs, Sunset Magazine June 2012 issue; sidebar titled Is Biking Safe?:
Fear of traffic is one of the top reasons people don’t bike. But, statistically, biking is safer than driving, and wearing a helmet makes it even more so. Here are the annual odds of fatalities for common activities, according to the most recent stats. –Aislyn Greene
- Motorcycling 1/ 6,141
- Driving 1/ 11,883
- Working 1 / 30,735
- Biking (all) 1 / 68,673
- Walking 1/ 75,026
- Swimming 1/ 87,357
- Biking with helmet 1/ 342,847
- Flying 1/ 1,476,136
- riding in a train 1/ 216,475,677
Sources: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Consumer Reports, Federal Railroad Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Motorcycle Industry Council, National Transportation Safety Board, the Outdoor Foundation, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Transportation (full article currently available at saferoutespartnership.org site)
Not many clues as to how these numbers were figured.
A “scholarly” reference — “The Invisible Cyclists of Los Angeles,” Progressive Planning: The Magazine of Planners Network, Summer 2010 (on-line at http://www.plannersnetwork.org/publications/2010_summer/fuller_beltran.html: “Thousands of working-class people use bicycles to traverse cities and towns across the U.S. every day. . . . this group of cyclists is as dedicated as any other, riding through the wet of winter and simmering heat of summer. . . . you won’t see invisible cyclists at . . . City Council meetings demanding bike lanes. You might not see them in the street either, as these cyclists tend to ride alone, often intermingled with pedestrians on the sidewalk, and without lights or reflective clothing. . . . Low-wage workers have limited transportation options, compelling them to bike. Since work may not be steady enough or income high enough to be able to afford a car, or perhaps even a monthly bus pass, some are effectively captive cyclists. Limited mobility means fewer accessible job opportunities, which perpetuates low-income status . . . Because they ride at the margins with little evidence of their plight and without a voice in the civic arena the public is oblivious to these invisible cyclists. . . “
From: Ed Beighe [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, September 23, 2011 10:43 AM
Subject: Re: 1.43%
To: Ed Beighe <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, September 23, 2011 8:32 AM
Subject: RE: 1.43%
From: Ed Beighe [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2011 1:24 PM
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