Over the past two decades, bicycles have made a splash throughout the United States. And lately, it has not just been pleasure and fitness riders on bike paths and streets. Bicycles have become chosen transportation for commuters as well. With the COVID-19 crisis gripping the nation, more commuters are eschewing public transportation and turning to bicycles.

At times like these, safety and awareness are crucial as bicycles share roads with motorists in cars, SUVs, pick-ups and big-rig trucks. A collision with any of these vehicles can prove to be fatal to bicyclists. The luckier ones suffer potentially catastrophic injuries.

NYC bicyclist fatalities nearly tripled

Bicyclist fatalities in the United States increased by 38% in 2018 compared with 2010. The 857 bicyclists killed in 2018 represented the highest number of such fatalities since 1990. Three states accounted for the most cycling deaths from 2014 to 2018 as a total of 43% of the fatalities occurred in California, Florida and Texas.

Among all states, New York was the fourth-deadliest for cyclists during that time. In addition, New York City has experienced a substantial increase in cyclist deaths. In 2018, the city recorded 10 bicycling-related fatalities. However, that number nearly tripled in 2019, when 29 bicyclist deaths occurred.

Major causes: hit-and-runs, drunk drivers, speeders

What we do know is that many fatal accidents involving bicycles are caused by negligent and law-breaking motorists. A five-year review of National Highway Transportation Administration statistics from 2015 to 2019 determined that 20% of bicyclist deaths were attributed to hit-and-run drivers. In addition, drunk drivers accounted for 16% of the fatalities and excessive speeds contributed to 9% of the deaths.

Other factors have contributed to the jump in fatalities as well:

  • Americans are driving more miles than ever before.
  • Drivers often use smartphones behind the wheel, becoming distracted while talking, texting or just fumbling with it.
  • More large cars are on road. The percentage of trucks and SUVs among new motor vehicle sales has nearly doubled in the past 25 years. It was 40% in 1994 and climbed to 72% in 2019. The chance of death among pedestrians and bicyclists climbs 50% if struck by an SUV or truck instead of a normal-sized car.

If only motorists learned to be more aware of bicyclists and share the road with them, the country may see a significant decrease in such accidents with injuries or fatalities. This is a big reason why bicyclists must remain proactive and alert to the potential hazards on the road.