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What Are Risk Factors for Bicycle Fatalities?

Wilson & McQueen Feb. 21, 2022

Many people find it convenient to ride a bicycle to work or to run errands. Bicycles also serve as a form of exercise. While riding your bike may be beneficial, it also comes with some risks of bodily harm. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 846 people who rode bikes died in traffic accidents.

Not all bicyclists are equally at risk for death in a motor vehicle accident. The NHTSA describes different factors that make it more likely for someone to die while riding a bicycle.

Time and Location

When and where you ride may play important roles in whether you are more likely to die in an bicycle accident. In 2019, many more bike riders died in urban areas than rural locations. In fact, 78% of cyclist deaths happened in an urban location, compared to just 22% for rural locales.

The time of the day you ride may also boost your risk of serious injury or death. The NHTSA found that most bicycle riders died in crashes between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. This corresponds with after work traffic and the onset of evening, which means there are more vehicles on the road that could hit you, plus the setting of the sun may limit visibility of your bike.


Bicyclists also face greater danger by riding on sidewalks. The problem is that many drivers do not expect to see bicycles on sidewalks and so they might not be looking for them while backing out of a driveway. Also, if you ride on sidewalk, you may find that the walk ends suddenly, which could deposit you on a road where the motorists are not expecting to find bicycles.


Consuming an alcoholic drink can also play a factor in a bicycle crash, and not just because of motorists who drive while under the influence. In fact, alcohol drinking is an issue for bike riders as well. According to the NHTSA, one in four bicycle deaths in 2019 happened because a bicycle rider had an alcoholic drink prior to riding.

Consider Measures to Stay Safe

You cannot control all risk factors, but there are many you can account for. You may choose your time of day to ride and plan a route that takes you through lighter traffic. If you ride at night, wear reflective clothing and keep lights and reflectors on your bicycle. Also abstain from alcohol before riding.

Hopefully, you will avoid any serious traffic accidents, but it is still possible an irresponsible driver could collide with you. If so, you may look at your options that may help you pursue compensation for injuries.