In the past month, the cycling community has lost three distinguished competitive cyclists including Chad Young, who was only 21 years old. Young died on April 28, after crashing in the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico. His death was preceded by the death of Steve Tilford on April 5 here in Colorado, and Mike Hall on March 31 during a race in Sydney, Australia. While Young died due to an injury caused by crashing in the race, both Tilford and Hall were killed in motor vehicle collisions. Unfortunately, it seems more and more cyclists are dying due to preventable collisions each year.
In 2015, 818 people lost their lives in bicycle-vehicle crashes. This statistic represents a six percent increase in bicyclist fatalities since 2006 and a 12.2 percent increase since 2014. The two most frequent sources of injury for cyclists are colliding with a car or falling. A rider crash or non-motor vehicle collision is the fifth most frequent cause of injury or death.
So what is safer: driving a car or riding a bike? Let’s do the math. 818 people lost their lives in a bicycle-related accident in 2015. Divide that by the total number of miles travelled annually by bike—anywhere between 6.2 billion and 21 billion according to the U.S. Department of Transportation—and you get 0.38 to 1.32 deaths for every 10 million miles. In the same year in Colorado, there were 546 vehicle-related deaths in the 50,437 million miles travelled, making the death rate for motorists 0.11 for every 10 million miles travelled. Calculations indicate that cycling is over three times as dangerous as driving. This is a scary statistic for bike riders. However, the U.S. Institute for Highway Safety published a study two years ago revealing that calculating deaths per hour rather than per mile suggest cycling is not nearly as dangerous as it otherwise appears. Either way, the death rate for cyclists is not to be overlooked.
Cyclist Chad Young died from injuries sustained during a high-speed crash at the Tour of Gila. According to his team, he was injured late in the race and immediately airlifted to a hospital in Tucson, Ariz. where his condition briefly stabilized prior to his death on Friday due to complications from a head injury. One of the youngest to ever compete, Young was ranked 31st out of over 100 competitors at the beginning of Sunday’s “Gila Monster.” This month last year, collegiate cyclist Randall Fox was also killed during a race near Seattle after falling from his bike. He was 29 years old; until Young’s death, Fox was the youngest person to die in a national cycling race. The recent deaths in the cycling world have prompted many cyclists—both professionals and amateurs—to urge race officials to enforce stricter rules and motor vehicle regulations to protect riders.
While road safety is an issue for any cyclist, road safety in major cities, especially during races, is a hot topic. Although it has gained publicity recently, safety for cyclists is not a new issue. The first documented car crash resulted in a collision with a bicyclist in 1896. The nine most serious pro-cyclist fatalities documented since 2011 were all caused by collisions with motor vehicles.
Progress doesn’t happen overnight, but it is important to remember what we can do as drivers to protect cyclists—and what we can do as cyclists.
Here are a few things to remember:
• Yield to bicyclists as you would motorists, and do not underestimate their speed.
• Complete a full stop at intersections/stop signs. Watch for cyclists/cars entering the roadway.
• Always look to the right before making a right turn on red.
• Obey the speed limit and reduce speed when road conditions are suspicious.
• Give cyclists room. Do not pass too closely; pass cyclists as you would any other vehicle.
• For cyclists: always ride in the bike lane if there is one provided.
Vehicles and roads are inherently dangerous places; we all can make an effort to reduce risk to ourselves and each other.