May 18, 2023 - News

Portland bike deaths have barely changed over a decade

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

Fatal bicycle crashes in Portland have barely budged in nearly a decade, averaging just over three a year between 2012 and 2021, according to data from the League of American Bicyclists and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Why it matters: While Portland's fatality rate is relatively low, its steadiness calls into question whether extensive investments into bike infrastructure should be tweaked.

  • Portland has a long-term goal that one-quarter of all trips in the city be done by bike.

Zoom out: Portland ranks in the middle of the pack compared to other cities but a little worse than the national rate of 2.7 fatal bicycle crashes per million residents between 2017 and 2021.

  • Statewide, 12 cyclists were killed on average annually in the same period.

Of note: Cyclists are seriously injured in traffic crashes significantly more often than they are killed, according to city data.

Zoom in: Naito Parkway, running along Waterfront Park downtown, got a recent shoutout as one of the best new bike lane projects in the country. One northbound lane is now painted green and closed to cars, so bike traffic travels both ways in it.

  • Construction on two long-awaited inner southeast bike safety projects — at SE Salmon and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and SE Sandy and 11th Avenue — is scheduled to start next month.
  • Blaming construction cost increases, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is delaying two other projects along SE Grand and NE Irving.

The intrigue: Cities are seeing 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 these zippier 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: Pedestrians in Portland are killed in traffic more frequently than cyclists.


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