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Bicycle Fatalities Spiked in 2021

The Continued Rise of Cyclist Fatalities

The NHTSA reports that 966 cyclists died on roadways in the U.S. in 2021. That is the highest count since 1975 and continues a trend since 2017 in which cyclist fatalities are up 5% overall from the previous five-year period. Allentown personal injury lawyers add that deaths in urban areas where bicycle riding is more prevalent are up 62% since 2012.

A Decade-Long Trend

Since 2012, annual cyclist deaths have exceeded 700 every year and have exceeded 800 in six of those years. The increase from 2015 through 2021 is particularly alarming as this is among the worst periods for cyclist in the U.S. ever, and while we are not yet at the terrible rates experienced during the 1970s and 1980s, the country is trending in that direction and may reach them if not more is done to stem the tide. While the full NHTSA report for 2022 was not yet available as of this writing, the data that is obtainable suggests an 8% increase, and the early numbers for 2023 out of the states that account for the most cyclist deaths in the last decade, such as New York and Florida, are not promising.

A Deeper Look Into the Numbers

From 1996 to 2021—a 25-year period—traffic-related deaths among people outside the vehicle has risen from 20% to 34%. People outside the vehicle includes pedal cyclists but also pedestrians and motorcyclists. That said, the cyclist numbers may be underreported because not all human-powered transport or HPVs, such as skateboards and scooters, are included. Cyclist injuries are also up and increasing at an even higher rate than fatalities. It is also worth noting what was pointed out by Ken McLeod, The League of American Bicyclists policy director, which is that these deaths are not inevitable. We cannot simply write them off to population increase or wider bicycle usage because similar numbers are not seen in comparable wealthy countries that have even higher rates of cyclists on their roads.

Other Notable Trends

U.S. drivers killed nearly 7,500 pedestrians in 2021. That number not only continues a decade-long trend but marks the highest number in the U.S. in more than 40 years. Even more disturbing is the fact that these deaths among children ages 15 and younger have more than tripled over the last several years. The cause of deaths among people outside the vehicle are predominantly drivers of passenger vehicles, and deaths linked to SUVs have increased at a much faster rate than any other vehicle type.

Why Deaths Are Increasing

Why pedestrian and cyclist deaths are on the rise is a question that many government agencies are asking, but there is no clear answer. What we do know is that drivers of larger vehicles, such as SUVs and pickups, are more likely to hit a cyclist or pedestrian and more likely to kill them when they do. In addition, sales and leases of those types of vehicles are on the rise. The data also suggest that more people than ever are riding bicycles and walking due to the health and environmental benefits, and even states like New York do not have the protections found, for instance, in many European cities.

What the U.S. Is Doing to Curb Cyclist Fatalities

At the Federal level, awareness is the focus along with mandates for states. There are campaigns aimed at driver education but also helping cyclists better safeguard against such incidents. State efforts vary greatly based on the local challenges. Arizona, Delaware and Kentucky are all experiencing declining rates and may offer models for how to proceed. In Pennsylvania, the Pedalcycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is working on its Vulnerable Road User Safety Assessment, which is a plan to curb pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.

Legal Assistance in Pennsylvania

If you have experienced injuries or loss due to a bicycle-related accident in Pennsylvania, Metzger & Kleiner is here to provide the legal representation you need. We are a law firm with extensive experience negotiating and litigating cases like yours. Contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our Allentown personal injury lawyers, or you can reach our Philadelphia office at 215-567-6616 or our Lehigh Valley office at 610-435-7400.

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