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Making Bicycling and Motorcycling Safer

Posted by Secretary Elaine L. Chao

As summer nears, it is evident in the garage at DOT headquarters that we count among our colleagues many bicyclists and motorcyclists.  For their sake and the benefit of all bicyclists and motorcyclists, May is National Bike Month and Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and DOT will be helping expand the reach of these safety campaigns.  Sadly, there is urgent and ongoing need for these efforts. 


At DOT, we are working every day to make roads safer through infrastructure improvements, technology and greater public awareness of safe riding and driving practices.  State-level DOTs are also working hard to improve traffic safety.  Yet, in 2016, 840 bicyclists were killed in crashes in the U.S. – the most annual fatalities since 1991.  An estimated 60,000 bicyclists were injured.  5,286 motorcyclists were killed in crashes in 2016 – the most since 2008 – and an estimated 88,000 were injured.  Many of these injuries are very serious and life-altering.

Drivers of cars and trucks have a special responsibility to be on the lookout for and considerate of bicycles and motorcycles.  In crashes the laws of physics are harshest on those operating bicycles and motorcycles.  That’s the primary reason that in 2016, based on vehicle miles travelled, motorcyclist fatalities occurred nearly 28 times more frequently than passenger car occupant fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes. 

Bicyclists and motorcyclists should take care to exercise safer riding strategies, including:  1) wearing a high-quality helmet; 2) obeying traffic laws; 3) riding sober, and; 4) being constantly mindful that drivers may not see you (because of distracted driving and “blind spots” around vehicles).  In 2016, 41% of those killed on a motorcycle were not wearing a helmet.  Motorcycle riders involved (killed or survived) in fatal crashes in 2016 had higher percentages (25%) of alcohol impairment than any other type of motor vehicle operator.  Speed was a factor for 33% of motorcycle riders in fatal crashes.  About 20% of bicyclists killed in crashes had blood alcohol levels of .08 or more.  Since 1975, deaths among bicyclists 20 and older in motor vehicle traffic crashes have more than tripled. 

Talk to any experienced bicyclist or motorcyclist and they’ll likely have stories to recount of frightening close-calls or even crashes.  So let’s all remember to practice what we preach on safety – no distracted driving or riding and be constantly on the lookout for all road users to help keep them safe, too.  

Secretary Chao poses with cyclists infront of DOT Headquarters

Secretary Chao celebrates National Bike to Work Week with DOT bicycle commuters.