May 18, 2023 - Health

These cities have the most bicycle deaths per capita

Bicyclist fatalities in major U.S. metro areas
Data: The League of American Bicyclists via NHTSA; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

There were 2.7 fatal bicycle crashes on average for every million U.S. residents between 2017-2021, per data from the League of American Bicyclists via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — up 5% from 2012-2016.

  • New Orleans (9.9), Tucson (8.9) and Jacksonville (7.9) had the country's highest rates of fatal accidents per million residents among major metro areas.

Why it matters: Bicycle use exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many cities scrambling to install new bike lanes and adopt other measures to keep riders safe and encourage cycling.

  • Such projects have gained renewed urgency as bike-sharing platforms such as Citi Bike NYC and Chicago's Divvy Bikes have become popular options for quick A-to-B hops around cities nationwide.
  • Cycling is tied to myriad associated benefits for city residents, including cleaner air and better public health.

Zoom in: Some of the country's best new bike lane projects are in Seattle, Portland and Bethesda, Maryland, per advocacy group PeopleForBikes.

  • New Jersey's Jersey City and Hoboken, meanwhile, got a shoutout for an innovative project meant to better connect the neighboring cities, which have historically been frustratingly disconnected despite their proximity and well-developed internal bike lane networks.

The intrigue: Cities are grappling not just with an upswing in traditional bicycle use, but also a boom in e-bikes used by residents, tourists and delivery workers.

  • The challenge, however, is figuring out how to best integrate the zippier, pedal-assist bikes — do they belong in bike lanes with slower, traditional two-wheelers, or should they be among the cars and trucks, where Vespa-style scooters travel?

Reality check: Protected bike lanes and other measures designed to keep cyclists safe are often met with fierce pushback from urban drivers who lament the loss of any lanes or parking spots.

What's next: Cities nationwide are applying for state and federal money — including some set aside as part of the 2021 infrastructure law — to further develop their bike trail networks and other cycling infrastructure.

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