Knock on wood, in the first six months of this year, only one person riding a bicycle has died as a result of a crash with a motor vehicle. Last year that number was four, and another was killed by this time in July. So I am happy to report 2014 is one of the safest years I can remember in my 15 years of reporting on bicycle safety in Wisconsin. While the best years on record are 2009 and 2011 when we didn’t have any fatal crashes in the first six months, (and yes, even one death is too many) this is pretty good news. Note that the 2014 data is preliminary, but it is unlikely that the bicycle numbers will change much, if any.
That is wonderful news, and as regular readers know, the number of crashes has been steadily decreasing, even as bicycling has become more popular and Wisconsin’s population increases. Although it has been getting progressively safer to ride a bicycle in Wisconsin for a long time because of improved facilities as well as our education and awareness programs, I suspect weather gets most of the credit for the big drop this year.
As you can see by the charts, the total number of crashes is down from 343 in 2013 to 263 so far this year. I’d bet the total crash number is down because with our late spring. I know many people didn’t get the bikes out of the garage until much later than normal this year thanks to our long, cold winter. Many bike shop owners have told me they are having a pretty slow first half of the year. Even those with strong web stores say internet sales are down.
You can see that the total number of all crashes (mostly automobiles) remains about the same, as are the number of people killed walking. Motorcycle crashes are also down.
I also have an educated guess as to why the total number of fatal bicycle crashes is down significantly more than the total number of crashes. I think that the people who were out pedaling around in the snow and rain are more experienced riders who are far less likely to be involved in a serious crash.
No matter the reason, it gives me great pleasure to be able to report on some good news this year. Let’s all do everything we can to keep make the rest of the year a safe one. The Bike Fed has a dozen Safe Routes to School instructors and Share and Be Aware Ambassadors across the state teaching bicycle safety to kids and adults and encouraging people to share the road and be aware of people bicycling and walking. We are able to do that important work thanks to support from our members and federal grants administered by the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation, but you can help too by being a roll model. Remember to follow the rules of the road and pay attention whether you are walking, on a bike or behind the wheel.