Yesterday's CDC report linked to a study that compared the risk of various modes of travel. It used mortality rates from 1999-2003 and exposure as determined by the 2001 National Household Travel Survey to do so. Cycling was determined to be more than twice as deadly as riding in a car and about 1.5 times as deadly as walking.
We found that bicyclist fatality rates per trip were higher for males than females and for adolescents and adults than children 5–14 years of age, which is consistent with studies that used amount of time spent cycling as the primary exposure measure (21). Although children spend more time on bicycles than adults do (21), they may be less likely to travel on roads with high traffic volume or high speeds or during nighttime hours, which are more dangerous settings in which to cycle. On the basis of amount of time spent cycling, Rodgers (21) found increased bicycle fatality risk for those who rode after dark. Such differences in exposure to different traffic environments were not captured in our analysis.
A few interesting tidbits jumped out at me.
1. While motoring gets safer as you move into middle age (25-64), walking and biking get more dangerous. This is probably because the data includes single car fataliteis, but not single bike fatalities - and becaue single bike and single pedestrian fatalities are probably much more rare per capita than single car fatalities are - meaning that youthful operator failure may be more of an issue for driving.
However, when looking at injuries instead of fatalities, 15-24 year olds have the highest injury rates for all modes.
2. For women, biking is safer than walking, but for men it is not - and significantly so. But when considering injuries, biking becomes much more risky than walking regardless of sex.
3. For women, biking is not that much more dangerous than motoring (7.2 fatalities per 100 million trips compared to 6.3 for motoring), but for men it is more than twice as deadly. Which means that much of the difference betweeing motoring and cycling fatality rates is being driven by male cyclist behavior.
The overall mortality rate for males was six times greater than the overall mortality rate for females. In 2012, males accounted for 87% of total bicycle deaths in the United States. This proportion increased over the 38-year study period, from 79% in 1977 to a peak of 90% in 2001.
One could conclude that if men biked more like women did, there would be fewer cyclist deaths.
Again, the study only suggests possible countermeasures
Measures that prevent crashes and injuries for pedestrians and bicyclists are needed, especially given the recent focus on increasing physical activity through active travel. The benefits of physical activity, including prevention of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions, must be balanced against the increased injury risks for pedestrians and bicyclists traveling on roadways. Effective countermeasures for these road users include sidewalks, bicycle lanes, bicycle helmets [Here it cites a 1995 recommendation - probably based on one of the discredited studies], reductions in vehicle speeds, and engineering measures such as traffic signals at high-speed intersections; exclusive walk signal phasing; refuge islands and raised medians on multilane, high-traffic-volume roads; and increased intensity of roadway lighting to reduce nighttime pedestrian crashes.
As noted yesterday, a lot of the difference in risk might be due to cycling outside of the urban environement - riding on bike-unfriendly highways or shoulders next to 55mph lanes. DC, the most urban "state" in the country, certainly seems safer than others. So while biking in generaly might be more risky than motoring nationwhide; in an urban area - and one with bike facilities especially - that may no longer be true.