May 23, 2023 - News

Bicyclist deaths drop in Boston

Data: The League of American Bicyclists via NHTSA; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

There were 1.5 fatal bicycle crashes on average for every million Greater Boston residents between 2017-2021, per data from the League of American Bicyclists via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — down 51% from 2012-2016.

Why it matters: Bicycle use exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • But while many cities scrambled to install new bike lanes and adopt other measures to keep riders safe and encourage cycling, Boston area bike infrastructure had a head start.
  • 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.

Zoom out: There were 2.7 fatal bicycle crashes on average for every million U.S. residents between 2017-2021 — 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.

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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