When I leave on my bike commute, I often hear “Be safe!” I assume they mean good luck and don’t get killed, and not “don’t ride like an a$$hole.” They assume cycling is more dangerous than driving or walking.

Is there data to prove this?

It’s hard to get. The Department of Transportation reports annual estimates of motor vehicle miles traveled but does not report annual estimates for nonmotorized travel.

Based on data by Laurie F. Beck, Ann M. Dellinger, and Mary E. O’Neil, cycling is more dangerous than driving.

Fatality rate per
100 million person-trips
Bus: 0.4
Passenger vehicle occupants: 9.2
Pedestrians: 13.7
Bicyclists: 21.0
Motorcyclists: 536.6

The data shows that you’re twice as likely to die biking as you are driving. I think that is far less of a difference than most people would expect.

Taking the bus is 20 times safer than driving. I guess that would entitle me to say “Be safe” to drivers as I’m heading to the bus on a day that I don’t commute by bike.

As for the other kind of cyclists, motorcyclists, they may deserve the “be safe” goodbye.

Of course this data is only for fatalities and not for crashes. I assume that data is even harder to track. I think anyone would be guessing as to how the crash data would correlate.