A new report from the mobility analytics company StreetLight Data has ranked U.S. states by biking risk, following different criteria than most studies: crashes per bike miles traveled. Typically, studies on bike risk look at crashes per capita.
According to the new data, Massachusetts is the safest state for cycling, while Delaware is the most dangerous.
New York notably ranks as the second-safest state in this new list, while it didn’t make the top ten in the comparable list from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A recent analysis on bike safety has taken a new and more intuitive approach to analyzing risk for cyclists.
The report from StreetLight Data, a mobility analytics company, ranks states by cycling risk according to bike miles traveled (BMT). Most cyclist crash and fatality studies, such as those from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), look at the number of crashes per capita—that is, by general population.
But that doesn’t necessarily accurately reflect risk, since the number of cyclists per capita also varies by area.
“It’s not really fair to compare bike crashes to the entire population of a state or city when the vast majority of residents don’t ride bicycles,” StreetLight’s director of content, Phaedra Hise, told Smart Cities Dive. “It makes more sense to measure risk compared to actual bicycle travel—either BMT or number of bike rides, or people riding bikes—something more meaningful.”
The company pulled data from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System for the 48 contiguous U.S. states in 2018 and 2019. StreetLight multiplied the relative number of bike trips in each state by the average trip length, and then measured fatalities per 100k BMT.
Here’s what it found:
Top 5 Riskiest States
Top 5 Safest States
When comparing the old list from NHTSA, that use per capita data, to the revised list from StreetLight Data, the top 10 most dangerous states have been mostly shuffled around—particularly the top four, which list the same states in both but in a different order. New Mexico ranks the same in both, in fifth place. And California makes both the old NHTSA list and the new StreetLight Data list, but it ranks sixth on the former and tenth on the latter.
Meanwhile, Colorado and Indiana are no longer in the top 10 riskiest states for cyclists. They’ve been replaced by Mississippi and West Virginia.
As for the safest states for cyclists, New York, Minnesota, and Washington now make the top ten, with New York notably in second place.
Looking at bike crashes per mile traveled instead of per capita had the biggest negative impact on West Virginia’s ranking and had the most positive impact on Oregon’s and New York’s rankings.
StreetLight Data also looked closely at New York City; Brooklyn stood out as having a low crash-to-trip ratio, while Harlem and the Lower East Side in Manhattan are riskier zones.
The study did not look at the following states because they had fewer than five cyclist fatalities in 2018 and 2019 combined: Connecticut, Maine, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.
According to the report, the company conducted its analysis using “de-identified and aggregated Location-Based Services (LBS) and GPS data from mobile devices, which our machine-learning algorithms sort into trip activity by various modes, including bicycles.”
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