The Minnesota Department of Public Safety and the Minnesota Department of Transportation have released preliminary numbers on bicycle-related traffic accidents for 2011. I use the word numbers, because that’s what they are — pure counts.
In 2011, 4 bicyclists were killed in traffic collisions in Minnesota, which is a decrease from 2010’s 9 fatalities. However, cyclists in reported injury accidents increased to 942, over 882 in 2010.
MNDOT say that most accidents are caused by inattentiveness — specifically, motor vehicle operator distraction, and cyclist disregard of traffic signals or rules. I suspect this is based on accident report language and may not include any investigation.
These numbers aren’t all that disturbing, even the “increase.” Why? Well, while there were more injuries, numerically, the number of cyclists on the roads has been increasing steadily in the last several years, particularly in Minneapolis. So the actual percentage of injury accidents is also on decline in that sense. There is also a possibility that with greater numbers of cyclists on the roads and greater awareness of cycling, more injury accidents are being reported — which is to suggest the possibility of under-reporting in prior years. Many minor accidents aren’t witnessed or always reported, be they car-on-car, or car-on-bike. It’s a known thing. It’s also a thing whose trends are impossible to forecast well — how do you know how many invisible accidents there are, given that they’re invisible? It’s a data modeling problem.
In any event, accident counts are a good reminder to be careful out there. Ride predictably. Follow the law. Be visible. Hang up and drive.