May 22, 2023 - News

Bicyclist fatalities increase in D.C.

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

Bicyclist fatalities have increased in D.C. over the past decade, a far cry from the Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths and injuries.

  • There were 2.9 fatal bicycle crashes on average for every million D.C. residents between 2017-2021, per data from the League of American Bicyclists via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — up 141% from 2012-2016.

Why it matters: Bicycle use exploded nationwide 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.

Zoom in: Mayor Bowser has been criticized for not moving faster on her pledge to build 10 miles of protected bicycle lanes a year.

  • The District pushed back its timeline for the Connecticut Ave. NW bicycle lane project after concerns from businesses about parking. Cycling advocates say the 2.7-mile protected bicycle lane would mean a big leap toward a safer street, after recent deadly motorist crashes.
  • This year, Bowser unveiled a new 1.5-mile-protected bike lane on 9th St. NW, from U St. to Pennsylvania Ave. Capital Bikeshare is also adding 700 new e-bikes.

The intrigue: Cities are grappling not just with an upswing in traditional bicycle use, but with 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?

What's next: Council members will meet tomorrow to discuss how to handle traffic enforcement, after the city recorded 40 traffic fatalities in 2021, a 10-year high.

Go deeper: Unpaid traffic tickets in D.C. stack up to nearly $1.3 billion


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