The number of bicyclists killed on Illinois roadways increased roughly 18 percent over a recent three-year period, according to a study released by a road safety group Monday.
The study, authored by the Governors Highway Safety Association, analyzed the number of bicyclist fatalities in U.S. states from 2010 to 2012.
The authors found that Illinois had the fifth-highest number of fatalities, reporting that 80 bicyclists were killed during that three-year period.
But while the only acceptable number of bicyclist deaths should be “zero,” Jim Merrell, of the Chicago-based Active Transportation Alliance, cautioned that study doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The urge to say Illinois is the fifth worst state in terms of fatal bike crashes should be taken with a grain of salt,” Merrell said. “When you break those numbers down by the number of people biking [as a whole], we’re more in the middle of the pack.”
Merrell’s bottom line: States with large urban populations and an active bicycling community are destined to have more bicycle-related fatalities. Chicago, where an estimated yearly average of 125,000 ride a bike each day, makes Illinois one of those states, he said.
In fact, since 2000, the number of bike commuters has tripled, Merrell said. Statistically speaking, the number of bike-related accidents is likely to increase with the increase in cycling’s popularity.
But Merrell did say that the report offered a chance to discuss the need for increased bike safety.
In contrast with populous states such as Illinois, some rural states in the Mountain West — Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming — had less than five fatalities during the three-year period.
The report points out that efforts are underway in Chicago to make commuting by bike safer. Already designated bike lanes have cropped up across the city. And even more protected lanes, where there’s a buffer between motorists and bicyclists, are on the way.
Still, the number of bicycle fatalities in Illinois is dwarfed by the number of fatalities in California, where 338 died, as well as Florida, where 329 bicyclists died during that time.