Help Make Bicycling Safer


Near misses (or close calls) occur when a cyclist has an interaction involving a motor vehicle or with specific road conditions that could have resulted in a crash or injury but did not. Near-miss data is collected by industries and safety agencies (e.g., Occupational, Heath and Safety Administration - OHSA), throughout the world so that companies can identify and correct problems that might lead to worker injuries and loss of productivity. It is time to bring this approach to cycling safety.

Every cyclist has at least one story of a near miss that might have been a crash except for luck. For most cyclists this has happened many times. The goal of this project is to collect data on near misses and minor injury crashes involving motor vehicles or adverse cycling infrastructure (rarely reported) so that this information can lead to changes in the safety of roads for cyclists and in the attitudes of transportation officials.

Near misses are defined individually by cyclists depending on what they think is a dangerous situation. Near-misses can be thought of as precursors to crashes. Most of the literature on the risks of cyclists is based on records of fatalities or injuries that resulted in a police report. In 2013 in the United States there were 743 deaths of cyclists and 48,000 injuries. Cyclist deaths have increased by 8.9% from 2001 to 2011 ( and increased by 16.5% from 2010 to 2014. Cyclists have 2 times the rates of injuries and deaths as motorists per hour traveled. Basing decisions about cycling safety on death and injury data is a reactive approach to safety. Cyclists should not have to be injured or die before cycling is made safer!

The Cycling Crash Pyramid suggests that the numbers of unreported crashes and near misses are very large, but at present these numbers are unknown. It is these numbers that Bike Incident Reports for your states and communities will collect. These data can then be used to identify dangerous locations for cyclists and to use this information to lobby officials to make those locations safer. This is a proactive approach, and it needs to be the standard used to make cycling safety decisions.  

The Cycling Crash Pathway illustrates the range of cycling incidents, their severity and the need for a shift in thinking about cycling safety. There needs to be a paradigm shift from reactive approach to the proactive approach to cycling safety. For this to happen we need to have the right data!

A few cities or state advocacy groups have paper report forms that can be filled out and handed in. Others have brief online forms that collect information about the location and nature on the incident but lack enough specificity about the demographics of riders or reactions of the cyclists to be useful in determining how they perceive risk of cycling in the future. The form presented by SBD has the necessary detail about the cyclists, the location and nature of the incident and the cyclist's response to the incident to determine problem locations and to examine the relationships among the data to build a complete study to present to government officials. The analysis of these data will have statistical rigor rather than being primarily anecdotal or a list of records. This type of analysis is necessary to empower cycling groups to obtain the needed changes in road safety.

Why collect near-miss data from cyclists?