New Orleanians are no strangers to the ghost bikes that haunt locations where a bicyclist was killed on the road. The memorials double as a reminder to motorists that they should responsibly share roadways. Despite this, the New Orleans metro area has become one of the top ten major cities with the highest per capita bicyclist deaths in the country. According to the most recent data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, New Orleans had nearly 4 cyclist deaths per 100,000 people from 2007 to 2016. Nationally, the number of cyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes has increased with Louisiana ranked as the second most dangerous city for bikers.
The rise in deaths has been attributed to a broad array of possibilities such as driver distractions, alcohol, and overall a higher number of motorist and bicyclist on the road. One of the most harrowing causes is texting while driving. Deborah Hersman, chief executive of the National Safety Council, claims “Almost every state in the country has a texting ban, but we still find drivers are texting behind the wheel.” Another issue is alcohol, with a small percentage of crash-involved drivers and bikers having a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit of 0.08 (the legal limit in most states) according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (or GHSA), a nonprofit.
However, this has not deterred the growing popularity of bike sharing programs in the U.S. In fact, more than one internationally conducted study found that an increase in theses programs lowered the likelihood of bike accidents. While most states since 2010 have seen a rise in biker related deaths, some states have been even worse off. Ranked worst in the nation, Florida’s 10-year bicyclist fatality rate stats came in at 6.2 deaths per 100,000 residents. That’s 59% higher than the Louisiana rate.
Author of the 2017 GHSA report, Pam Fischer, wrote an examination of bike-safety issues nationwide and stated: “You kind of mush it all together, and it helps us explain as best we can what’s going on out there.” Some bicycle advocates blame car-centric roadways, claiming that there is a need for more bicycle-friendly roads since they are left to choose between riding on the sidewalk or cars constantly rushing past them only inches away. Some states have taken action by such as widening bike lanes and even adding better lighting and lower speed limits in areas that experience high cyclist and pedestrian traffic.