May 18, 2023 - News

Houston's bike death rate has nearly doubled since 2016

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

Houston's rate of deadly bicycle crashes nearly doubled in the most recent five-year period analyzed.

Driving the news: There were 4.5 fatal bicycle crashes on average for every 1 million Houston residents between 2017 and 2021, per data from the League of American Bicyclists via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — up 95% from 2012 to 2016.

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

  • Such projects have gained renewed urgency as bike-sharing platforms, such as Houston's BCycle, have become popular options for quick A-to-B hops around cities nationwide.
  • Cycling is tied to myriad benefits for cities, including cleaner air and better public health.

State of play: 10 cyclists have died on Houston streets since the beginning of the year, including the rider of an e-bike who was killed in a hit-and-run crash, according to Houston police. E-bike crashes, however, don't count toward traditional bike crash counts, according to Houston police, who consider e-bikes motor vehicles, not bicycles.

  • There were a total of 11 bicycle crash deaths in 2022, according to records from the Texas Department of Transportation.
  • Those numbers don't capture the full scope of the toll crashes take on cyclists. In 2022 alone, 30 cyclists suffered serious injury because of crashes.

Zoom out: There were 2.7 fatal bicycle crashes on average for every 1 million U.S. residents between 2017 and 2021 — up 5% from 2012 to 2016.

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

Of note: Houston is a Vision Zero city with a goal of eliminating all traffic deaths by 2030.

  • Part of meeting that goal is building out 1,800 miles of bike lanes throughout the city, as prescribed by the Houston Bike Plan.

What they're saying: "Since the Houston Bike Plan was adopted in 2017, we've seen at least 75 people killed while riding bikes on Houston streets, but none of them were killed while riding in dedicated bikeways," Joe Cutrufo, executive director of advocacy group BikeHouston, tells Axios.

  • "When it comes to building safe bike infrastructure, it's not that we lack imagination; we lack the resources to make it happen at a scale that can keep up with the demand."

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