Cycling Deaths and Time of Day

A few days back I was involved in a sparkling conversation that eventually turned to the fun-filled question:  What time of day is most dangerous for cycling?  Is it “rush hour,” as simple more motorists = higher probability logic would tell us? Is it the ever slightly changing time of dawn/dusk?

I then proceeded to ride at what I found later to be exactly the most dangerous time for cyclists, at least in terms of when they are killed cycling: Anytime after three in the afternoon.

As shown below from the very cleanly presented annual “fatality facts” from the not-so-cleanly entitled Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute , 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. had the highest percentage of cyclist deaths in 2013, a trend shown in other years as well:

Distribution of bicyclist deaths by time of day, 2013
Time of day Deaths %
Midnight – 3 a.m. 38 5
3 a.m. – 6 a.m. 38 5
6 a.m. – 9 a.m. 85 11
9 a.m. – noon 79 11
Noon – 3 p.m. 85 11
3 p.m. – 6 p.m. 130 18
6 p.m. – 9 p.m. 159 21
9 p.m. – midnight 124 17
Total* 741 100











Notice too (but don’t tell my wife) that my favorite time to ride, at night, strongly correlates to higher cycling deaths.  Of course, time of year changes time of daytime/nighttime, and, as you probably suspect, a higher rate of cyclist deaths occur from May to October, although it’s not as pronounced as you may think:

Distribution of bicyclist deaths by month, 2013
Month Deaths %
January 38 5
February 32 4
March 47 6
April 54 7
May 77 10
June 87 12
July 68 9
August 86 12
September 83 11
October 72 10
November 51 7
December 46 6
Total 741 100

Still, the consistently high percentage from 9:00 to midnight, checking each year of the Insurance Institute… (no, I won’t repeat its entire title), would indicate darkness equals a better chance of death than sunlight.  That trend naturally brings up other questions, including alcohol, and the Institute has extensive data on drunk cycling, as well as age and gender info.

It’s a macabre, yet very interesting, website, and cyclists, transportation planners and others may want to check it out.  Just don’t mention its findings to my wife or your loved ones, nighttime cyclists.


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