Bicyclist fatalities on the rise in Virginia

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 7:00 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia DMV is putting out a grave reminder to keep an eye out for folks that share the road with you. According to DMV data, bicycle fatalities are up more than 75% this year across Virginia.

Out of all of the cities and counties in the state, the city of Richmond has the second-highest number of bicycle crashes, sitting at 34 total, but only one of them was fatal.

“People are absolutely afraid to ride bikes,” Bike Walk RVA Director of Outreach Brantley Tyndall said. “Around the country, and in Richmond in particular, surveys have shown that 60% of the population would bike more if it were safer.”

Last year, only eight deaths occurred statewide. In 2021, that number now sits at 14. Even though that number seems small, Tyndall says the number shakes the bicyclist community.

“When a bicyclist dies and they’re a part of the biking community, we come together, we feel it. We all feel it,” he said.

So far this year, there have been 454 bicycle-involved crashes in Virginia. In 2020, there were about 100 more crashes, but they were not as deadly.

“What you’re seeing is an increase in distracted driving and a prevalent increase in speeding, which makes crashes more fatal for anyone involved, but especially for vulnerable road users, people who are biking and walking,” Tyndall said.

Two new laws went into effect in July 2021 to make roads safer for cyclists. One requires drivers to change lanes to pass a bicyclist. The other allows bicyclists to stay alongside each other in a single lane, which makes them easier to pass and more visible to cars.

“What they need is infrastructure and slower speeds,” Tyndall said. “They need to feel like they’re not dressing up for war to go out to ride their bike, but instead have a peaceful, safe trip and end up where they want to go.”

Advocates with Bike Walk RVA say that this has been a worsening trend for the past decade or so, but say local government officials have been receptive to their concerns and more bike lanes are being added.

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