Wednesday, April 09, 2008

15 Odds of Dying in a Bicycle Crash

Over the course of your life, it may be safer to ride a bicycle than to be a pedestrian!

But the chances of dying in a bicycling accident is apparently more than that of going down in an airplane.

This interesting picture showed up on the Pixdaus blog. Check it out.

1 in 4919 (0.02%) is a lifetime probability that means that out of every 4919 instances you ride your bicycle, 1 can result in death. According to this website, this data was provided by the National Safety Council.

But referring to the NSC's website itself, that number seems more like 1 in 4098 (2005). Interestingly, we are named 'Pedalcyclists'. I've never seen that before. Is there any other form of cycling other than pedaling? I guess you could technically 'cycle' drugs and steroids too but...

Anyway, so is this picture reflecting new data?

Bicycle death statistics can have various facets as an article on the CICLE blog says. It is suffice to say that riders who don't follow the rules will die much earlier than the rest.

The general picture though, relative to other terrestrial modes of transportation, is not all that bad. I wonder how it varies from geographical locations, age and application (road vs mountain biking vs bmx). Remember, data also changes from year to year.


  1. Anonymous1:15 AM

    I especially like the "Total Odds of Dying" 1 in 1, 100%. Classic.

  2. sample space i guess

  3. First: pedalcyclist vs motorcyclist.
    Second: Are you sure about that interpretation of the odds? I don't think that cyclists die every 4,919 times they go for a ride. I think 1 out of every 4,919 deaths is caused by riding a bike.

    How else could you explain 1 in 62,468 deaths from legal execution? Because I don't think that only 1/62,468 legal executions are successful.

    This makes the picture somewhat less rosy, given that not all people ride, and certainly not all people ride as often as an avid cyclist.

  4. Those are pretty high odds. If you ride 200 days a year and ride for 20 years, you are really pushing your luck.

  5. Your interpretation of the odds is wrong. Take what you said about the odds of dying and substitute the automobile numbers. Would you say that in one out of every 84 trips by car you will "certainly die"? I don't think so. The real truth is that at some point you will die. That's 100%. One out of every 84 people who die, die in a car crash. Two very different things.

  6. David and others :

    Thanks for correcting me. It does make sense to understand that figure as 1 out of every 4919 deaths is a cycling accident. The word "odds" is a ratio of an event definitely happening over it not happening.

    That way, suicides and cancer is looking so grim!

  7. It seems that just about everything is easier to die from next to a plane crash.

    The problem with plane crashes Ron is that you get to go with about 200 others at the same time.

    Saint Peter must hate those days. Like just about everything else involved with airplanes, it causes a long line-up.


  8. "pedalcyclist" is terminology that the FHA/NTSC has used since the 70s at least. You'll see it in every federal government report about cyclists. As David notes, it's to distinguish us against motorcyclists. And "pedalcyclists" because not every human powered vehicle is two wheeled like the bicycle (unicycles, trikes, etc).

  9. Are these statistics for the United States?

  10. Blue - A plane could even land on a cyclist. So then you have to calculate the probability that cyclist died given aircraft failed and crashed near to him.

    Fritz - Thank you, I'm very ignorant in these areas and I wasn't even born in the 70's.

    Vcspinner - Yeah, I believe so.

  11. Not to put any more of a grim tone on this discussion than it already has, but with a father and grandfather who both died in their mid 60's of heart disease (1 in 5), it looks like my odds are much better if I keep riding my bike (1 in almost 5000).

    I'm not sure how that figures for me, though, considering that everyone is susceptible to heart disease and relatively few ride bicycles regularly.

  12. I think that if you have a genetic heart related problem, nothing may help avoid it. Generally its accepted that any form of aerobic exercise prolongs life, lowers blood pressure and stress and keeps your brain young. I say keep riding.

  13. ...cafn8...i'll try keep this brief...6 years ago @ 53yrs old i had an unexpected quintuple (5) by-pass due to a genetic heart related problem after 35yrs of a extremely clean diet & even more years of cycling...

    ...bottom cardiologist & nutritionist told me after my surgery that w/ out taking care of myself the way i had, that i could have dropped dead in my early thirties...

    ...ron's right, keep riding...

  14. And BGW still rides like a madman. I've seen him push a fixed gear bike around the hills of Marin County. The dude's a beast. My hat's off to you, BGW!

  15. Sounds like his fitness is way up there. He also contributes a lot to blogs in commentary, atleast I've seen.


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