A recent report from the League of American Bicyclists says more pedestrians and bicyclists died in 2016 than at any time in the past 25 years.
The group’s 2018 Benchmarking Report — which was issued last month and flagged by Outside magazine — says pedestrian and bicyclist death rates also continue to outpace those of all other traffic fatalities, despite high-profile efforts such as the Vision Zero initiative in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and other cities that aim to reduce such deaths. In 2018, pedestrians accounted for 16 percent of all traffic deaths, compared with 11.2 percent in 2007; for bicyclists, the figure increased to 2.2 percent from 1.7 percent in the same period.
The group notes that the increase in deaths occurred as more people bike or walk to work, but it also says Oregon's experience shows it doesn't have to be that way.
The 2018 Benchmarking Report on Walking and Bicycling in the United States found that, taken together, pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 18.2 percent of all traffic deaths in 2016, compared with 12.9 percent in 2007, when bicycling and pedestrian advocates began issuing the reports. (It says the Alliance for Biking and Walking initiated the Benchmarking reports in 2007; this is the sixth such report and the first published by the league.)
The 417-page report, using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, says 835 bicyclists were killed in 2016, the most since 836 died in 1991. It also reports that 5,987 pedestrians were killed in 2016, the most since 1990, when 6,482 died.
At the same time, census data suggests that there has been a 50 percent increase in bicycle commuting since 2007, and several cities — the report emphasizes that the push has occurred mostly in urban areas — have embraced efforts to make their streets and roadways safer and more appealing to bicyclists and pedestrians. Since 2010, the number of cities offering “open street” events has increased from 10 to 43. The number of states that require driver tests to pose questions about bicycle and vehicle laws has increased, as has the number of cities offering bike-sharing programs.
The research also suggests that the risks do not necessarily have to rise as more people find alternatives to autos. Oregon reported the lowest rate of bicyclists killed per bicycle commuter (1.7 deaths per 10,000) despite a nearly 47 percent increase in bicycle commuters from 2007 to 2016. The state also saw its fatality rate drop from about 11 deaths a year, from 2007 to 2011 to slightly fewer than eight deaths a year from 2012 to 2016.