According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 714 bicyclists were killed in collisions with automobiles in the U.S. in 2008. This number is down 29 percent from 1975. The decline among female bicyclists (50 percent) was larger than the decline among male bicyclists (24 percent).
The statistics in the IIHS report support what I’ve seen in other studies: early evening is the most dangerous time of day to ride, urban areas are more dangerous than rural areas, and major roads are more dangerous than minor roads.
Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed weren’t wearing helmets. I don’t believe this number tells us much about helmet effectiveness because there’s no way to know if a higher rate of helmet use would have significantly changed the number of deaths. For a controlled study on helmet effectiveness, see Thompson, R.S.; Rivara, F.P.; and Thompson, D.C. 1989. A case-control study of the effectiveness of bicycle safety helmets. New England Journal of Medicine 320:1361-67.
While we already knew bicycling is a relatively safe activity (see here), it’s good to know our streets in the U.S. are getting even safer for bicyclists.