Transportation and Health Tool Tags Cycling’s Most Dangerous Places

Years ago when I started designing and building web sites for clients, I came across a book called “Web Pages That Suck.”  It taught good web design by showing readers what didn’t work and then telling them how to avoid it.  I learned a lot from that approach, and so as I dig into the data provided by the US Department of Transportation and Centers for Disease Control with regard to the link between active transportation and healthy outcomes, I think it might be worthwhile to apply the same principles to bicycle safety.

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I was able to locate the whole data set and download it as an Excel file, and so now I’m going through it at both a state and metro level. One data point that’s of particular interest to me is something they call Road Traffic Fatalities:  Exposure.  This is a weighted score that looks fatal crashes both in terms of the number of residents as well as the percentage of those who engage in regular walking and biking.  Without such weighting, states like California, Minnesota and Colorado would appear far more dangerous than they actually are simply because there are more regular walkers and cyclists in these states.

So what does the data show?  On a state level, the five states where you’re most likely to have a fatal crash while bicycling are:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Arkansas
  3. Delaware
  4. North Carolina
  5. Alabama

On an MSA level, these are the five most dangerous places:

  1. Decatur, Alabama
  2. Macon, Georgia
  3. Elizabethtown-Ft. Knox, Kentucky
  4. Odessa, Texas
  5. Danville, Illinois

Interestingly enough, some of the safest cities for cyclists are located within a stone’s throw of some of the most dangerous.  Kankakee IL is one such place.  Located only 78 miles from Danville, Kankakee is tied with multiple cities for the lowest cyclist mortality rate.  Maybe this is an anomoly, but I’m not so sure.  Valdosta GA (Macon) and Laredo TX (Odessa) are also very safe cities to cycle in.  More on that next time…

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