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01/10/24   |   By

Washington DC Bicycle Accident Statistics

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Bicycling in Washington, DC, is a great way to save on gas and stay fit. But it can pose some dangers, especially if the rider or other road users fail to take proper precautions. Bicycle accidents in Washington, DC, may be less frequent than car accidents; however, riders and drivers should always be aware of the risks on the roads.

The Rising Popularity of Bicycle Riding in DC

According to goDCgo, an initiative of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), 5% of DC residents ride a bicycle to work every day. This is over 18,000 people who regularly take advantage of DC’s more than 160 miles of bike lanes and bike trails. goDCgo further emphasizes that the rising popularity of cycling in DC can be linked to the District’s #7 ranking for bike friendliness compared to large cities across the United States. This is based on bike lane length, number of bike commuters, number of bike shops, the air quality, the weather, and the prevalence of clubs for cyclists.

Capital Bikeshare

Additionally, the increasing usage and popularity of DC’s Capital Bikeshare program contribute to the number of potentially less experienced riders on the roads. This bikeshare program is the third-largest system in the country, after New York City and Chicago.

Need for Bicycle Safety

The rise in cycling popularity in DC, while indicating a positive health-centric and eco-friendly shift, also brings about a potential increase in safety risks. More cyclists on the road in urban areas mean increased interactions with motor vehicles and, unfortunately, the possibility for more accidents and more bicyclists killed. The streets, even with well-designed bike lanes, can be dangerous, with risks ranging from collisions with cars, pedestrians, and other cyclists to unexpected road hazards.

District of Columbia Vision Zero Traffic Fatalities and Injury Crashes Dashboard

According to the DDOT’s District of Columbia Vision Zero Traffic Fatalities and Injury Crashes dashboard, there have been ups and downs in bicycle-related incidents. Analyzing these accident statistics becomes important as they provide insights into the most frequent types of collisions, common accident hotspots, and times of high risk. Utilizing this data allows city planners, cycling advocates, traffic enforcers, and cyclists to create better preventative measures, improve infrastructure, and overall, enhance the safety of our growing cycling community.

Bicycle Accidents in DC in the Past Decade

Infographic on the Washington, DC bicycle accidents

4,926 Cyclists were involved in crashes in DC in the ten years (2013-2022), according to data from the DDOT and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in the Crashes in DC data set from Open Data DC. 73% of the cyclists involved in the recorded crashes were injured, and there were 13 bicyclist deaths. These traffic crashes involved bicycle collisions with motor vehicles, pedestrians, and other bicycles.

Yearly Averages

There was a dramatic increase in injuries of nearly 300% (an average of 575 injuries per year) in the four years from 2016 through 2019 compared to incidents in the previous three years. From 2020 through 2022, bicycle injuries slightly decreased, averaging about 300 yearly injuries. Though this yearly average is lower than the peak, this is still double the number of bicycle accident injuries for 2013-2015.

Types of Injuries Reported

Most bicycle injuries recorded in this data about DC bicycle crashes include abrasions, bruises, minor cuts, discomfort, bleeding, swelling, pain, and apparent minor injury. Eleven percent of those who reported injuries to the MPD were considered to have suffered significant injuries, including possible internal injury, unconsciousness, apparent broken bones, loss of teeth, concussions, severe lacerations, or other significant injuries.

Seasonal Bicycle Accident Trends

Injuries and fatalities related to bicycle accidents usually increase in the warmer summer months, increasing in the spring and declining in the fall. Over the last decade, accidents increased starting in April, with a peak from June through September and then quickly tapered off between October and November.

Where and When Do Bicycle Accidents in Washington, DC Happen Most Often?

Infographic on the seasonal trends for bicycle accidents in DC

Because of the pandemic, 2020 witnessed the closure of businesses, travel restrictions, and an increased number of employees working from home. With these changes in workday routines, the transit habits of people in Washington, DC, also shifted. Open Data DC reveals that bicycling habits and bicycle accidents in Washington, DC, were also affected.

In 2020, the total number of bike crashes dropped across most wards. The figures ranged from 5 to 75 in each area, with wards 5 and 8 showing no significant change.

Of course, due to lockdowns and other health measures, there was a significantly reduced number of commuters in more fantastic downtown. This led to fewer bicycle accidents in Washington, DC. The museums no longer received tourists; closed offices and businesses meant workers and clients were at home. So, although fewer bicycle accidents occurred, a significant percentage of them took place around residential neighborhoods.

Dangerous Wards for Cyclists

The regions around Union Station and within Farragut Square were found to be the most notorious in 2019. However, the year 2020 saw the crashes clustering in various parts of the District. They no longer frequented the regions around Union Station and within Farragut Square, Foggy Bottom, and Dupont Circle. The crashes seemed to be concentrated in Petworth and U St. / Shaw neighborhoods.

In 2021, bike accidents seemed to become an even more common occurrence once again, as, within a matter of weeks, four cyclists and pedestrians were killed on DC roadways in various parts of the city.

Vision Zero Initiatives in Place for Bicyclists

The District of Columbia has taken proactive measures to ensure the safety of its expanding cycling community through the Vision Zero Initiative, which was launched in 2015. This ambitious plan will eliminate traffic deaths and severe injuries by 2024. To achieve this, DC Vision Zero focuses on myriad strategies, including improving road infrastructure and visibility, enhancing data collection, and boosting public awareness and education, not forgetting more vigorous law enforcement.

Vision Zero became part of the US Department of Transportation’s Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets, aiming¬†to improve transportation safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Other initiatives in place include:

  • Adding 20 miles of new bike lanes that are protected and provide cyclists with a safer and more comfortable travel environment to help prevent bicycle deaths
  • Adding pedestrian signals to more than 95 percent of intersections
  • Mandatory bicycle helmets for children under the age of 16
  • Increased bike safety training for children

Overall, DC’s Vision Zero strategy hinges on collaboration and data-driven decision-making to make the streets safer for all users, particularly vulnerable ones such as cyclists.

Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents in Washington, DC

These are some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents in Washington, DC:

  • Dooring: When a driver or passenger opens their vehicle door into the path of an oncoming cyclist. Though it is illegal for cars to park or idle in a bike lane in DC, there are times when a rider is in danger of dooring while maneuvering around a stationary car on city streets.
  • Riding against traffic: When a cyclist rides against the traffic flow, it forces motorists to make unexpected adjustments and puts them at risk for collisions. DC requires that cyclists ride in the same direction as the traffic.
  • Sideswipes: When a motor vehicle driver passes too closely and hits the cyclist with their side mirror or door, it can cause severe injury or force the bicycle rider off the road, onto the wrong side of protected bike lanes, or into oncoming traffic.
  • Left and right turn accidents: When a driver fails to yield the right of way while making a left or right turn, it puts cyclists at greater risk for accidents, serious injuries, and bicycle fatalities. Motorists are legally required to signal their intentions when turning and ensure the coast is clear.
  • Distracted driving: Drivers who use their phones while behind the wheel pose a significant danger to cyclists on the road. Distracted drivers may not notice a cyclist in front of them or fail to yield when making turns or changing lanes.
  • Distracted cycling: Just as drivers can be distracted, cyclists can also be guilty of being on their phones or other distractions while riding. This reduces their awareness and reaction time, making them more prone to accidents with pedestrians and other cyclists.

Other causes include driving under the influence of alcohol, driving impaired, and aggressive driving.

Injured? Get Help from Experienced Bicycle Accident Lawyers

The District of Columbia is trying to make the streets safe for everyone. And as a bicyclist, you try to be as safe and responsible as possible. But drivers don’t always watch for bicycle riders sharing the same road. If a car or commercial vehicle injures you or a loved one while bicycling, an experienced Washington, DC bicycle accident lawyer at Regan Zambri Long in DC can come to your aid. They will assist you in getting the compensation you rightfully deserve without any hassle.

Regan Zambri Long
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