New Big Data technique reorders top 10 riskiest and safest US states for bicyclists


As traffic managers adjust to the Covid active-travel boom, transportation Big Data analytics firm StreetLight Data has unveiled its new cycling report, which uses all-new techniques to reveal which US states are safest – and most dangerous – to ride in.

StreetLight’s analysis includes a new metric, fatalities per bicycle miles traveled (BMT), rather than the historical standard: fatalities per capita. This methodology contrasts findings issued by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which tracks cycling fatalities and ranks states by fatal crashes per capita. StreetLight Data’s cycling-centric analytics was developed to create a more actionable context for bicycle safety data.

“It doesn’t make sense to measure bike risk per-capita data when not everyone in the state rides bikes,” says Laura Schewel, CEO and co-founder of StreetLight Data. “Because of the availability of Big Data, we can for the first time measure risk per mile cycled nationwide , and even compare areas to each other. As budgets are passed and projects are planned, the new data can help better inform planners and other officials as they prioritize where to invest to improve safety.”

For its analysis, StreetLight used de-identified and aggregated Location-Based Services (LBS) and GPS data. StreetLight’s proprietary machine-learning algorithms then sorted these data into trip activity by various modes, including vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian. The contextual analysis performed by StreetLight’s changes which states are perceived to be the most dangerous, and the safest, for cyclists.

When recasting national rankings by bicycle miles traveled, Colorado and Indiana drop out of the Top 10 most dangerous states for cyclists and are replaced by newcomers Mississippi, and West Virginia. The new ranking also reshuffles the other eight states, which is good news for Florida, California, Arizona, and Louisiana.

Top 10 Riskiest States for Bicyclists

Delaware (#2 on FARS* per capita report)
South Carolina (#4 on FARS)
Florida (#1 on FARS)
Louisiana (#3 on FARS)
New Mexico (#5 on FARS)
Oklahoma (#9 on FARS)
Mississippi (Not in the FARS top 10)
West Virginia (Not in the FARS top 10)
Arizona (#7 on FARS)
California (#6 on FARS)

* FARS = Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System

Top 10 Safest States for Bicyclists

As for lower-risk states, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico remain in the same position on both the FARS per-capita-based list and StreetLight’s BMT-based list. West Virginia, North Carolina, and Mississippi are in the mid-to-upper range of per-capita rankings, but recasting by BMT reveals much higher risk for cyclists. (Note, for statistical purposes, this list does not include states with fewer than five fatalities in 2018 and 2019 combined.)

Massachusetts (#1 on FARS per capita report)
New York (Not in the FARS top 10)
Illinois (#7 on FARS)
Pennsylvania (#4 on FARS)
Utah (#8 on FARS)
Tennessee (#2 on FARS)
Minnesota (Not in the FARS top 10)
Missouri (#5 on FARS)
Arkansas (#3 on FARS)
Washington (Not in the FARS top 10)

For further relevance, planners can combine StreetLight’s Bicycle Origin-Destination (O-D) or Zone Activity Metrics with safety data to identify heavily traveled cycling areas that lack existing Infrastructure. The data can also help pinpoint optimal areas for safety measures. Combining StreetLight’s cycling analytics with local insights creates a richer perspective on bike safety, and helps planners prioritize where to invest.

StreetLight Data’s Bike Safety Shift: Top 10 Riskiest States report is available online.

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).