While bicycle accidents are down, fatalities remain high

Jun 7, 2022, 3:11 PM | Updated: 3:49 pm

Alki Beach Park in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)...

Alki Beach Park in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

With temperatures slowly warming, drivers can expect to see more cyclists on the roads. And even though the number of cyclist accidents has decreased by 30% over the last three years in Washington, according to WSDOT, the number of fatal accidents has remained virtually the same.

“The reason why we are seeing so many bicyclists is because people have been cooped up for so long, for a couple of years, because of the pandemic and then there’s this rainy and forever cold temperatures,” said Pemco Insurance spokesperson Derek Wing. “Now that the weather is warming, people are coming out of the woodworks and are cycling.”

And just because people are cycling more doesn’t mean that everyone is experienced. Nationally, bicycle fatalities have risen about 44% in the past 10 years, according to NSC, which is higher than our state average.

So what’s the reason for the fatalities? Wing says that there are a lot of factors at play.

  1. There’s an increase in riders. “Bike sales went up 121% during the first year of the pandemic for leisure bikes. People saw them as a good socially distanced form of exercise,” said Wing.
  2. Behavioral changes. During the pandemic, the roads were open. For drivers, that meant being able to drive faster.
  3. Distractions. Driving while distracted is still a common issue that won’t be going away anytime soon.
  4. Certain vehicles. Depending on the car you drive, it may contribute to some crashes on the road ways. “Bicyclists have many of the same issues that pedestrians do. SUVs, larger trucks, and minivans have blind spots that can contribute to crashes with pedestrians and bikes,” said Wing.
  5. King County has rescinded its bike helmet law.

King County repeals bicycle helmet law over discriminatory enforcement concerns

What can cyclists and drivers do to be safer?

  1. “Remember that driving is a team sport,” said Wing. When we watch out for one another, everyone will be better off. 67% of bicyclists said drivers had room for improvement, according to a Pemco poll. 53% of drivers said the same about bicyclists.
  2. Leave ample space when passing a bike. The standard is three feet.
  3. Stay out of bike lanes.
  4. Check your blind spots, especially when making a right turn.
  5. When parking along a curb, open your door with your right hand. It forces you to look over your shoulder to see if a cyclist is coming toward you.

For bicyclists:

  1. Follow the same rules of the road as drivers.
  2. Use your hand signals. If you don’t know them, learn them.
  3. Wear bright clothing and use good lighting.
  4. Regardless of King County helmet laws, always, always wear a helmet.

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While bicycle accidents are down, fatalities remain high