Resources: Cycling and safety

How safe is bicycling? The short answer is: it depends. We offer these safety pages, not because cycling is especially dangerous, but because crashes do happen. Fortunately, most crashes can be avoided.

Crashes are caused by a wide range of factors. In these pages, we focus on those factors—such as cycling technique and bike maintenance—that you can directly control. For other factors, such as road conditions, motorist behavior, and the quality of bike facilities, we encourage you to get involved with your local bike advocacy organization.

DISCLAIMER: These safety pages attempt to share our knowledge about how to cycle safely. We offer them in the hope that they are useful, but without any guarantee implied or expressed. Following every suggestion made herein does not guarantee that you will not be in a crash. Only you can be responsible for your own safety on the road.

Overview of bike crashes

Most bicycle crashes do not involve a motor vehicle. They are bicycle-only crashes in which the cyclist fell down or ran into a stationary object. These crashes can often be prevented through proper lane position, good lighting at night, and by being alert to common hazards.

Crashes involving motor vehicles, though less common, tend to result in a higher severity of injury. Head injuries are the most serious type of injury and the most common cause of bicycle fatalities. Nearly one-third of bicycle fatalities involved a driver or a cyclist who had been drinking. While biking under the influence is still legal in some places, there is no question that one’s ability to ride safely is greatly impaired.

Most bike crashes involving children are due to cyclist error. Because children don't yet have road skills, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that children under ten ride on the sidewalk. Even then, it's necessary to practice safety skills, especially around driveways and intersections.

Keys to safe cycling

  1. The right equipment, well-maintained
  2. Practice core cycling skills
  3. Ride in correct road position
  4. Avoid the common cyclist errors
  5. Protect against the common motorist errors

Sources

  • NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts (2007), U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Injury to Pedestrians and Bicyclists: An Analysis based on Hospital Emergency Department Data (1999) U.S Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA-RD-99-078)