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How do speed limits impact cyclist safety?

Many factors impact cyclist safety in California, including the time of day a cyclist rides, how busy the roads are and what the speed limits are on those roads. Speed limits are one of several factors that has a direct impact on the safety of those traveling through an area by bike. Research shows that cyclists suffer more serious injuries and fatalities when navigating areas that have higher speed limits.

According to People Powered Movement, a cyclist’s chance of dying in a crash with a motor vehicle rises sharply alongside only moderate increases in speed limits.

How speed impacts cyclist injury rates

Studies show that increased speeds – and increased age of cyclists – contribute to cyclist injury rates. When speed limits are 25 mph and cars traveling in those areas strike cyclists, those cyclists face a high risk of suffering a severe injury. When the speed limit climbs to 30 mph, a cyclist faces an equal chance of suffering a serious injury or dying if a car were to strike him or her.

How speed impacts cyclist fatality rates

When speed limits exceed 35 mph and a car hits a cyclist, that cyclist is much more likely to die than suffer a severe injury due to the higher speed limit. However, in areas where speed limits exceed 35 mph, cyclist injuries and fatalities begin to decline since cyclists are unlikely to ride bikes in such areas.

Some nations, including Denmark, have taken steps to reduce speed limits since the mid-1970s. Research shows that doing so leads to a drop in both the severity and frequency of cyclist injuries.