Improving roads and surrounding infrastructure, enhancing the visibility of bicyclists, and increasing helmet use are a few of the issues addressed in a new report on bicyclist safety.
Those are the main findings of “Bicyclist Safety on U.S. Roadways: Crash Risks and Countermeasures,” released earlier this month by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to help combat the rise in bicyclist deaths.
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“This country needs a multi-faceted approach to deal with a problem that is only getting worse: more Americans are dying in collisions involving bikes and motor vehicles,” Robert L. Sumwalt, the NTSB’s chairman, said in a statement.
The most recently released statistics, the report noted, show 857 bicyclists died in crashes in 2018 — a 6.3 % increase over 2017— in a year when total road fatalities fell 2.4 %.
The federal agency said it was its first examination of bicyclist safety in the United States since its last report on the topic in 1972.
“Complex challenges, like making cycling safer for the growing number of people getting around on bikes all over the country, means that we have to look at everything that can make a difference,” Sumwalt.
The report, directed to federal and state agencies as well as bicyclists, included 22 safety recommendations that the agency said held the most promise to prevent and reduce the number of fatal and serious injuries to bicyclists involved in crashes with motor vehicles.
Key proposals call for designing infrastructure that would separate bicycles from traffic; improving the ability of motorists and technologies like collision avoidance systems to see bicyclists; and enhancing or adding treatments at intersections — where more than 65 % of collisions occur — that clearly denote right-of-way, using color, signage, medians, signals and pavement markings.
The investigators’ primary focus was on crash avoidance, but when collisions do occur, they said the use of a helmet was the single most effective way for riders to reduce their chances of receiving a serious head injury, the leading cause of bicyclist fatalities.
Less than half of bicyclists wear helmets, the report said; it recommended that all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico require all bicycle riders to wear a helmet.
Additional safety factors identified include the use of adaptive headlights, which increase visibility at night or in low-light conditions, and limiting speeds on roads.
The agency said simple but important actions taken by bicyclists themselves – following traffic rules, obeying traffic signals and using bicycle lights – will also help reduce their risks on the road.
“If the recommendations issued in our report are adopted, more Americans on bikes will arrive at their destinations safely,” Sumwalt added.
To read the full report, click here.