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Dispute Over Bike Fatality Report

The Governors Highway Safety Association released a report titled Bicyclist Safety showing a surge in bike fatalities since 2010. The report provoked widespread media coverage and, also, strongly critical reactions.
October 29, 2014, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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The Governors Highway Safety Association's Bicyclist Safety report claims bike fatalities spiked by 16 percent between 2010 and 2012. From the press release announcing the report: "The number of bicyclists killed on U.S. roadways is trending upward, particularly for certain subsets of the population....yearly bicyclist deaths increased 16 percent between 2010 and 2012, while overall motor vehicle fatalities increased just one percent during the same time period."

Michael Andersen and Tanya Snyder counter the claims of the report by noting that the bike fatalities nationwide are lower than historic highs set in 1975—even though bike ridership is currently soaring. So, "what’s actually happening is that for an infinitesimal fraction of the cost of the nation’s transportation system, Americans are enjoying billions more bike trips every year than they were a generation ago. And because the sheer number of bikes on the street is teaching drivers to keep an eye out for bikes, every single bike trip is far, far safer than it was." Andersen and Snyder make a number of other convincing arguments refuting the methodology and rhetoric of the report.

Anderson and Snyder note that the GHSA's report was picked up by the Des Moines Register, NJ.com, and the Washington Post. Planetizen notes that it was also picked up by Governing and the San Jose Mercury News.

Andersen and Snyder conclude with this appeal: "Reporters and editors treat the GHSA with respect because it describes itself as 'The States’ Voice on Highway Safety.' State officials who are interested in helping their residents safely enjoy the benefits of biking might want to consider whether, on this issue, the GHSA is actually speaking for them."

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Published on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 in Streetsblog USA
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