Dave Schlabowske
Bike Czar

Eighth Bicyclist of Year Killed by Motorists

It doesn't help that Wisconsin became the first state to repeal a Complete Streets law.

By , Bike Federation of Wisconsin - Jul 17th, 2015 11:50 am
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We learned two days ago of yet another bicycle crash fatality, Wisconsin’s eighth this year. Donna David, 53, died when she was struck on Highway T in the Town of McMillan in Marathon County. No details about the crash were available at this time, but we know from this article in the De Moines Register, she was training for RAGBRAI

And we learned more yesterday about the 11-year-old boy who died after a crash on University Avenue in Madison. Matthew Court was a fifth grader about to start middle school and a talented young jazz musician. His father gave a deeply touching interview to the Wisconsin State Journal.

We typically see 10 bike fatalities in an average year, and this is eight already in July. What’s going on? It’s impossible to know for sure: one problem with analyzing fatal bike crashes is that with so few (thankfully) occurring we can’t arrive at any statistically reliable conclusions. A likely cause is that there are simply more of us out there – bike commuting has risen 62 percent in the last decade – and vehicle miles driven by autos may also be rising again after years of decline. In short, there just could be more opportunities for bikes and motorized vehicles to mix.

The number of crashes has been on the decline for years in large part because of the increase in bike lanes, trails, and better education. This is true also because the number of people commuting by bicycle has increased.

The number of crashes has been on the decline for years in large part because of the increase in bike lanes, trails, and better education. This is true also because the number of people commuting by bicycle has increased.

The fatal crash numbers are so small that the variations from year to year are probably statistically insignificant. Of course, our goal is to make that number zero so we look at every crash to see how it might have been avoided. Adding more and better facilities, expanding our education and working more with law enforcement have been Wisconsin’s recipe for improved bicycle safety.

But that is all the more reason we need to continue to invest in safe bicycle infrastructure. For example, while Madison does well with a growing number of miles of dedicated bike paths and other facilities, there was no really safe way for Matthew Court to cross University Avenue near where the crash occurred.

We need to be constantly analyzing and improving our public investments in infrastructure, yet the state just cut investments in safe biking projects and became the first state to repeal a Complete Streets law.

Over the decades we’ve spent billions studying and improving the safety of highways and streets for motor vehicles. Those investments have paid off with vehicle crash fatalities plummeting in part due to safer cars, but in large part also due to those public investments. We need to have the same approach to bicycling. For a fraction of the cost of those road improvements (it was estimated that Complete Streets cost .006 percent of the state transportation budget) we could keep making progress so that fewer of these tragedies take place in the future.

In the meantime, let’s hope we don’t have to read about another bike fatality this year.

This article was originally published by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.

Categories: Bike Czar

5 thoughts on “Bike Czar: Eighth Bicyclist of Year Killed by Motorists”

  1. Casey says:

    Doesn’tthe bike fed fund some sort of driver education? I think all of these ttragedies coukd be avoided if we had better drivers. DRIVERS PAY ATTENTION! LIVES MATTER

  2. Jane Bowers says:

    My second try. I was bumped off the first time with a message saying I had left no e-mail address, although I had. Anyway, here goes: I think there are car drivers, bicycle riders, and pedestrians who are all at fault (I mean, some of them–and probably too many). Bike riders, instead of putting a foot down on the pavement at stop lights may weave around on their bikes, trying not to have to do so, and some don’t wear nearly enough reflective materials on their clothes or bicycles that help car drivers see them before they are almost on top of them. Lots of pedestrians cross streets midway without going to cross-walks and also walk against red lights. It seems to me there should be a regional publicity campaign, and also probably more police intervention, to promote better behaviors and on the rules for and responsibilities of car drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

  3. A busdriver says:

    I don’t know about bike riders there but, if they are anything like riders here (So.Cali) you would have more fatalities. Here the ride on sidewalks wear dark clothing at night no lights don’t stop at traffic lights or stop signs are very arrogant purposely impede the flow of traffic & harass car drivers. So I would suggest that police enforce the rules of the road ,bike riders wear reflective vests & use flashing lights front & rear day & night & follow the rules. You’ll live longer. Drivers look for them.

  4. benDE says:

    Have you ever come across any information (however anecdotal) about miles traveled by bike during the time of the graph you have accompanying this article? It appears as though cycling is getting safer, however then deaths would then also drop. What I fear is that the level of cycling is falling in line with the injury numbers, meaning by comparison the constant deaths actually indicate an increasing danger.

    Thanks, Ben

  5. joe rodriguez says:

    Bike Fed needs to do more to educate bicyclists about riding with traffic. I often see adults and children riding on the left, often on the sidewalk. I almost hit a bicyclist while driving my car and making a left hand turn. The bicyclist thought that because he was on the sidewalk it was my fault. I pointed out he was on the wrong side of the street. This is an extremely dangerous but common practice, riding against traffic. Car drivers do not look to the left when making a left hand turn. I am a frequent bicyclist and ride to work everyday.

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