Despite a slight dip in the total number of traffic fatalities in 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) projects crash deaths involving bicyclists increased by 10%. NHTSA released preliminary statistics in June, showing more than 860 cyclists died on U.S. roadways.

While more people are biking than ever before, the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, suggests fewer people are riding their bicycles to work than in the past. Cycling enthusiasts say that doesn’t mean it’s a trend, but some suggest cyclists are increasingly concerned for their safety.

Changing the culture for bike commuters

Whether it’s catching careless drivers, fixing unfriendly laws or shoddy roads, there are steps that can make streets safer for cyclists, including:

  • Stop distracted driving: Despite no organized opposition, a bill to ban the use of cell phones while driving died in a North Carolina Senate Committee in 2019, despite a poll showing 82% of North Carolinians in support. Sponsors say they’ll try again in 2020.
  • Improve driver’s education: North Carolina is one of 31 states requiring driver’s ed for motorists under 18 years old. Cycling advocates say curriculums should include safety tips for sharing the road with bicycles.
  • Laws protecting cyclists: Ten states have adopted Vulnerable Road User (VRU) laws that protect cyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists. North Carolina is not one of them. One cycling group found that of 600 cyclist deaths in 2012, only 12% of the drivers involved were punished.
  • Better infrastructure: Despite improvements for cyclists across the country, including bike lanes and awareness campaigns, many cities are dangerous places for bike commuters.
  • Report hostile drivers: Too many drivers harass cyclists. If you are in imminent danger, call 911, or a nonemergency police number to report drivers, and include the make of the vehicle, license plate number and the direction they are traveling, if possible.

Ride responsibly and defensivelyCyclists who pedal against traffic, run stoplights or purposely hinder traffic are a big reason why bike commuters don’t get more respect. Make sure you follow all traffic laws and respect everyone else on the road, and above all, be visible to drivers and ready to react to vehicles on the road. If you’ve been injured by a careless or hostile driver, an experienced personal injury attorney in North Carolina can help you recover the compensation you deserve.