In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Bicycling and Cycling Safety

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Statistical Sources for Cycling Risk
  • Macrotrends in Cycling Risk
  • Objectively Measured Risk
  • Population Differences in Cycling Risk
  • Bicycling Risk in Separated Spaces
  • Bicycling Risk in Shared Spaces
  • Route Choice and Environment
  • Subjectively Measured Risk
  • Unreported Risk: Near Misses and Non-traffic Risk
  • Bicycle Helmets
  • Conspicuity and Bicycling
  • Efforts to Improve Bicycling Safety

Public Health Bicycling and Cycling Safety
Rebecca L. Sanders, Jill F. Cooper
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 January 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0092


The topic of bicycle safety has been treated differently in the United States than in other Western countries and less motorized countries. In the western European countries, where bicycling for transportation has been popular for decades, safety has also been a primary concern, with an emphasis on creating a safe environment for cyclists. In more auto-dominant countries like the United States and the Commonwealth countries, however, land use patterns designed to facilitate automobile travel have led to generally unsafe and unpleasant environments for utilitarian cycling. Instead of examining the role of motor vehicles and roadway design in perpetuating the danger, there has tended to be a focus more on the danger of cycling itself—and cycling has, until recently, been left as an aside to transportation planning. Recently, given the public health, fiscal, and environmental benefits of bicycling, it has been enjoying increased popularity in many countries around the world, and with this increased popularity has come a renewed focus on safety. In less motorized countries, cycling remains popular; however, with the recent growth of private vehicle ownership, safety concerns have arisen. This bibliography outlines many of the research studies on the various aspects of bicycling safety. Works were selected after conducting searches for the terms “(bi)cycle/ing safety,” “(bi)cycle/ing risk,” “(bi)cycle/ing injury(ies),” “bicycle helmets,” “(bi)cyclist visibility,” and “(bi)cycle/ing facilities,” using Google Scholar™, PubMed™, and the Transportation Research Board Bicycle Committee’s Bicycle Research Database, in addition to the authors’ own exposure to works presented and cited at public health and transportation conferences. Selections were generally limited to peer-reviewed studies in reputable journals in the fields of transportation, public health, and medicine, among others, and reports from well-known organizations in these fields; however, a few non-peer-reviewed sources are included for emerging areas of research. In general, the authors have attempted to describe results, as well as limitations to the works selected. While seminal works from earlier decades are included, the focus of this review is on recent literature, in order to most accurately include current information and thinking about cycling safety. The review attempts to include a range of perspectives on the many facets of bicycle safety, but it does not intend or claim to be comprehensive; indeed, it is intended as a starting point for readers interested in bicycling safety, and the authors hope that exploration of the sources included here will lead to additional exploration through the reference lists of these texts. Readers will be able to use this outline to access sources on the nature of bicycle crashes, such as injuries and the severities of crash types; populations involved in bicycle crashes; factors contributing to bicycle crashes; the role of infrastructure in encouraging or detracting from bicycle safety; the relationship between objective and subjective bicycle safety; protective cycling equipment; and efforts to mitigate bicycle crashes.

General Overviews

The works in this section provide a thorough look at the various aspects of bicycling safety. There is no authoritative text on bicycling safety, given that it has tended to be discussed and studied less than the safety of other transportation modes. However, anyone looking for a brief overview of bicycling safety would do well to start with these sources. Toroyan, et al. 2009, published by the World Health Organization, gives an international perspective on bicycling safety, with a look at less motorized countries. Krizek, et al. 2009 presents a thorough report on bicycling research from around the globe, including the effects of policies, studies on bicycle safety and specific facilities, and research on larger issues of preferences, land use, and urban design. Swanson and Milne 2012, the biennial Bicycling and Walking in the United States Benchmarking Report issued by the Alliance for Biking & Walking, is an outstanding source of information about bicycling safety, policies, funding, advocacy efforts, benefits, mode share data, and more for the fifty United States. The 15-year status update of the National Bicycling and Walking Study (Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center 2010) reports on progress toward the original 1994 study’s goals in the United States. Jacobsen and Rutter 2012, the chapter on Cycling Safety in City Cycling (based in part on a literature review, Jacobsen, et al. 2009, cited under Macrotrends in Cycling Risk) presents a higher-level view of issues regarding cycling safety and how they fit with other aspects of bicycling, such as its contribution to public health and environmental goals. Cleven and Blomberg 2007, the NHTSA Compendium gives an overview of nearly forty years of research conducted by the Office of Behavioral Safety Research. The web page of the Bicycle Transportation Research Subcommittee of the Transportation Research Board contains a downloadable database of bicycling research, while the website of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center contains a breadth of information about bicycling in general as well as bicycling safety.

  • Bicycle Transportation Research Subcommittee of the Transportation Research Board Bicycle Transportation Committee.

    The TRB Bicycle Research Subcommittee is a clearinghouse for new research on bicycling and bicycling safety. Research submitted to the subcommittee is considered for presentation and publication at the annual TRB conference. Included on the web page is a downloadable database of bicycling research.

  • Cleven, A. M., and R. D. Blomberg. 2007. A compendium of NHTSA pedestrian and bicyclist research projects: 1969–2007. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    Nearly forty years of bicycling and walking research by the Office of Behavioral Safety Research is summarized in this compendium. The review presents the office’s research philosophy and covers studies on behavior, traffic engineering, education, enforcement, and policy.

  • Jacobsen, P. L., and H. Rutter. 2012. Cycling safety. In City cycling. Edited by J. Pucher and R. Buehler, 141–156. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    This book chapter covers aspects of cycling safety ranging from the inherent risk of mixing with automobiles in poorly designed urban areas, to risk factor characteristics, to the role of helmets in both potentially protecting heads and perpetuating a culture of fear about bicycling.

  • Krizek, K. J., A. Forsyth, and L. Baum. 2009. Walking and cycling international literature review: Final report. Melbourne, Australia: Victoria Department of Transport.

    This literature review provides a comprehensive look at bicycling research from around the world, including policy effects, cycling safety, specific bicycling facilities, bicycle sharing, and larger issues of preferences, urban design, and land use. The report concludes with key takeaways and avenues for future research.

  • Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.

    The website of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center contains a wealth of information about basic bicycling facts, crash statistics, policies, efforts toward education, enforcement, and engineering. The site also has a link to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool (PBCAT), a crash-typing software.

  • Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. 2010. The National Bicycling and Walking Study: 15-year status report. Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration.

    The 15-Year Status Report follows the five- and ten-year status reports in assessing the progress the United States has made toward the original goals of the National Bicycling and Walking Study. The evaluation includes funding, mode share, safety, encouragement efforts, and plans and policies.

  • Swanson, K., and A. Milne. 2012. Bicycling and walking in the United States: 2012 benchmarking report. Washington, DC: Alliance for Biking & Walking.

    The Benchmarking Report is published every two years and contains information about bicycling and walking safety, policies, funding, share of trips, benefits, advocacy efforts, and demographic information of bicyclists and pedestrians for all fifty states.

  • Toroyan, T., M. M. Peden, K. Laych, et al. 2009. Global status report on road safety: Time for action. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

    This report covers roadway safety and related topics, such as policy, traffic calming, and enforcement in 178 countries, and it provides a benchmark against which the countries can measure themselves. Readers should note that there is serious concern about underreporting of pedestrian and bicycle risk worldwide, particularly in developing countries.

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