• Are more cyclists getting hit from behind than ever before?

    by  • May 14, 2012 • Safety • 14 Comments

    Who is telling the truth?

    Is it this one, claiming that 7% of bicycle-related accidents are hit from behind, or this one, saying cars run into bicyclists from behind only 3.8% of the time, or this one telling us getting hit from behind is extremely unlikely?

    Or, is the League of American Bicyclists latest fact finding initiative “Every Bicyclist Counts” going to prove them all wrong, with current statistics showing that 1 in 4 crashes involve drivers hitting bicyclists from behind?

    Since there is little about this on-line or in LAB’s website as of yet (nothing searchable, anyway) below is page 3 of a letter that came in the mail today, appealing for funds:

    We already know how woefully inadequate the police and media are at reporting these tragedies. Do they accurately reconstruct the accident or crime scene before defaulting to bicyclist at fault? Most often, a hate-filled verdict is already delivered against the bicyclist in the comments section of a newspaper, even if the evidence clearly shows otherwise.

    In reviewing the materials and website, we applaud the League for taking on this enormous challenge, to bring these depressing statistics up to date.

    Reminder:  May 16th, 2012 is the Ride of Silence. The mission of the world wide Ride of Silence is to honor bicyclists killed by motorists, promote sharing the road, and provide awareness of bicycling safety. Click HERE for event details in Delaware (2 locations).

    14 Responses to Are more cyclists getting hit from behind than ever before?

    1. May 15, 2012 at 12:14 am

      Great write up Frank! Can I syndicate this on WalkBikeJersey? BTW on the verge of victory for restored bicycle access on NJ TRANSIT trains.

      Andy

    2. May 15, 2012 at 8:06 am

      It would not surprise me. There were far fewer in-car distractive devices in the 1970′s. We definitely need modern numbers. Thanks for posting this. I will link to it on the Los Alamos blog.

      • Frank Warnock
        May 15, 2012 at 9:33 am

        Even the radio back then. You could reach-grab-turn those big ‘ol knobs without even looking. Try that on today’s cars! Posted materials on our site are free for any similar mission non-profit cause, so please do. Thanks so much.

    3. Clutch J
      May 15, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      LAB indicates they are documenting only FATAL car-bike crashes. It’s long been believed that hit-from-the-rear crashes are comparatively infrequent but also more serious than other types of crashes.

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    5. May 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      It seems likely that nobody is lying — instead, people are measuring different things in different ways at different times and giving their results in different ways.

      As for “getting hit from behind is extremely unlikely” … if it happens 4% of the time, that probably qualifies as “extremely unlikely”, though one could certainly argue that the 1/26 doesn’t qualify as “extremely unlikely”. Though the wording isn’t really wrong — really, getting hit by a car at all is extremely unlikely, as most rides do not end in a crash.

      But more to the point, getting rear-ended seems particularly deadly to cyclists, and so that could easily explain the discrepancies right there — the other studies that say 3.8% or 7% didn’t only look at cyclists killed, and the 25% figure only included cyclists that were killed. Good data is easiest to find when you look only at deaths — if you’re looking at injuries, good, consistently collected data becomes harder to find — so I can understand why they’d concentrate on deaths.

      As for the 3.8% figure, what they looked at is pretty clear — “All police-reported bicycle-motor vehicle crashes occurring in Gainesville, Florida (158 cases), Austin, Texas (173 cases), and Santa Barbara, California (77 cases) during the calendar year 1995″. It’s a pretty small data set, but they looked carefully at every single incident reported. It’s hard to find fault with their methodology (within its narrowly established parameters), but extrapolating their results to the entire country is iffy.

      The reality would seem to be that most crashes are not of the “hit from behind” variety — but when they do happen, they’re fairly likely to be deadly, so they should not be dismissed as being rare.

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    9. May 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      Part of the problem with interpretation is that the LAB letter mixes apples and oranges. The one in four figure is for fatal crashes, whereas the low percentage of rear end crashes is for all crashes.

      One could probably argue with some confidence that bicyclists, including myself, are more interested in mitigating the kinds of crashes that are going to put me six feet under or in an ICU than the type of crash that merely has me nursing some road rash, picking up the bike, and going home. Therefore, yes, I think we really want to know if the percentage of rear end crashes of all types (fatal or non-fatal) are going up, because these are indeed pretty lethal.

    10. Donna
      May 19, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      In Harford County, MD, a woman was hit while riding to a Bike To Work Day Rally. She was hit from behind, but fortunately only received minor injuries (although her new carbon bike was totaled).

    11. May 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      when I was a kid, I was taught to drive facing traffic, that way you can see the cars who find it absolutely impossible to keep their cars between the lines.. I ride 896 and main st everyday to and from work.. and let me tell you.. I have dodged way too many cars to want to ride with traffic at my back..

      • SerSer
        October 17, 2013 at 9:25 pm

        Just dumb.

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