“People are very nice to cyclists in other parts of the world, but around here they just want you off the road.”
— Scott Gross, manager of Jacksonville bike shop Open Road Bicycles
California and Florida, the states where we start and end our transcontinental bicycle journey this fall, are the two deadliest in terms of cyclists killed in traffic accidents, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
California, where we begin the trip Sept. 18 in San Diego, was in second place with 109 cyclist deaths in 2007, the latest year for which information is available.
Florida, where we end the journey on Nov. 21 at St. Augustine, topped the list with 119 deaths. New York was third in 2007 with 51 cyclist deaths. Texas, my current home state, recorded 48 and Louisiana 22.
A total of 698 “pedalcyclists” — the term used by the NHTSA — “were killed and an additional 44,000 were injured in traffic crashes,” the agency said. “Pedalcyclist deaths accounted for 2 percent of all traffic fatalities, and pedalcyclists made up 2 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes during the year.”
“More than 52,000 pedalcyclists have died in traffic crashes in the United States since 1932 — the first year in which estimates of pedalcyclist fatalities were recorded,” the agency reports on its Web site. “The 350 pedalcyclists killed in 1932 accounted for 1.3 percent of the 27,979 persons who died in traffic crashes that year.”
The agency said that the highest number of cyclist fatalities ever recorded in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) was 1,003 in 1975.
The involvement of alcohol — either for the driver or the cyclist — was reported in more than a third of the traffic crashes that resulted in cyclist fatalities in 2007. In 33 percent of the crashes, either the driver or the cyclist was reported to have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.
I’ve trolled the Internet to find out why Florida tops the list or is near the top year after year. Some suggested reasons: Florida’s balmy climate and large population equates to more cyclists who are on their bikes yearround, a lack of biking insfrastructure such as bike lanes and wide shoulders, a dearth of connecting pathways between neighborhoods and workplaces, shopping centers, schools, etc., and a car culture reluctant to make concessions to cyclists.
Whatever the reason, I plan to be extra careful in the Sunshine State. I’d hate to be injured or killed in the final stages of a 3,160-mile bicycle trip across the country.