Posted September 24, 2018 | Personal Injury Blog
Although Utah frequently ranks low nationwide in annual bicyclist fatalities, bicycle safety and friendliness is nonetheless a serious concern throughout the state.
Despite low fatalities, 372 bicyclists are injured, on average, in Utah every year – and about 47 percent of cyclists involved in crashes are under 25 years old.
We wanted to know specifically where bicyclists were most vulnerable to automobile accidents, so we consulted with data visualization firm 1Point21 Interactive for a deeper analysis of the issue.
Unfortunately, since bicyclist volume data isn’t available, the best we could do is to identify locations in Utah where most bicyclists crashes occur. These high crash locations may or may not be locations that are dangerous for bicyclists.
To compare the relative safety or danger of intersections, you must know how many crashes have occurred and how many bicyclists ride through each intersection. This allows the calculation of a crash rate, which is the number of crashes per bicyclist using the intersection. For example, a location where 20 bicyclists ride through annually and 10 are involved in a crash, is obviously more dangerous than a location where 20,000 bicyclists ride through annually and 10 are involved in a crash.
With data sourced from the Utah Department of Transportation, we compiled a list of zones throughout the state with the highest concentration of bicycle crashes.
Through our analysis, we found that, from 2014-2017, there were 412 bicycle collisions across 33 distinct zones, leading to nearly 250 injuries.
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Utah’s largest city exhibited the most crashes for bicyclists. The state capital contained ten zones, including a widespread zone in Downtown centralized at the intersection of 200 S and State Street. This zone accounted for 77 bicycle collisions with 37 leading to injury, resulting in a Bicycle crash rate of 184 – ranking second on our list.
It’s worth noting that Salt Lake City has the widest streets and largest blocks of any major city in the United States. By comparison, SLC blocks are three times the size of cities such as Portland, and their streets are more than double the width of those in San Francisco and Manhattan.
This spread-out design was actually based on conventional principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Blocks were made larger to enable family farming, while the streets were widened so that farmers could more easily direct their cattle through the streets.
While this was ideal in the 19th century, wider streets are a net negative for cyclists in the modern age:
Although the implementation of safety medians and bike lanes may alleviate this, it may take more drastic measures to ensure bicycle safety in the state’s capital.
On a larger scale, the Salt Lake City metropolitan area dominates our list, accounting for 24 of 33 zones. Arguably the densest region of Utah, with the greatest numbers of bicyclists, populated with younger professionals open to bicycling to work, it seems logical that there would be a greater likelihood of bicycle collisions.
However, State Street remains a central location for bicycle crashes through the Salt Lake City metro area, the site of seven of the major zones in Salt Lake County. Despite being a fairly wide corridor, State Street is a popular route option for those looking to ride through downtown Salt Lake City. Our data seems to substantiate that: the seven zones along State Street account for 141 total crashes – nearly 35 percent of all crashes in our zones.
Provo, the second-most populous city in Utah and home to Brigham Young University, is prone to bicycle crashes as well. Although it only has three zones in our list, the top zone has the second-most crashes and the highest bicycle crash rate. Encompassing nearly all of Provo’s downtown area, the zone accounted for 70 bicycle accidents – with over 65 percent resulting in injury
Although this zone had seven fewer crashes than the Downtown Salt Lake City zone, it also had nine more crashes that resulted in moderate or serious injury – causing it to narrowly edge out the zone and take the top spot.
Ogden – Downtown: This zone ranked fourth in total crashes and fourth in crash rate. Running along a stretch of Washington Blvd, it accounted for 21 total bicycle collisions – 13 resulting in injury.
Logan: The home of Utah State University contained one zone encompassing a bend of East 400 N and S Main Street and ticked 15 total crashes – ranking fifth in crashes and crash rate.
Although drivers must do their part to exercise care and safety, cyclists can also be mindful to reduce the likelihood of a tragic accident on Utah’s wide roads and corridors.
Drivers can follow these tips:
For bicyclists, it’s heavily recommended to:
Data was sourced from the Utah Department of Transportation and the analysis was performed using a Kernel Density Estimation. Zones were considered hot spots if five or more bicycle collisions occurred within it over the study period. More information is available upon request.