Wyoming Ranked 9th Safest State for Cyclists in New Study
Experts urge caution in interpreting rankings
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Jan 18, 2023
Pictured above is Amber Travsky who has been running the Tour de Wyoming, an annual six-day road cycling event that travels the state with a different route, since 1997. (Courtesy photo from Amber Travsky)
By Kristi Eaton
Special to the Wyoming Truth
Amber Travsky has been running the Tour de Wyoming, an annual six-day road cycling event that travels the state with a different route, since 1997. Each year, nearly 300 cyclists from Wyoming and beyond ride throughout the state, tackling mountains, flatlands and more.
Even so, Travsky was surprised to learn that Wyoming was recently named the nation’s ninth safest state for road cyclists in a study released by Ice Bike, which provides reviews and price comparisons for bikes.
“The only real thing we have going for us is that sometimes there is less traffic than in other states,” Travsky told the Wyoming Truth. “The downside is that there are fewer road cyclists, so motorists aren’t always looking out for us. Also, we really don’t have a lot of pavement, so road options sometimes are minimal.”
The study examined National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data from the past 10 years to determine which states had the lowest percentage of cyclist deaths according to the population.
Nebraska was named as the safest state for cyclists, with the lowest fatality rate of 0.77 deaths per 100,000—or 67% lower than the national average. South Dakota ranked as the second safest, with 66% lower deaths per 100,000 than average in America. And Wyoming came in at the ninth safest state, with 1.21 deaths per 100,000 people—or 48% lower than the national average.
Wyoming has had seven cyclist deaths over 10 years, contributing just 0.1% to national figures.
Meanwhile, cyclist fatalities are increasing year-on-year on average nationwide, rising from 4,302 deaths in 2010 to 6,205 in 2019—a 44% increase.
“The U.S., being primarily reliant on cars, means that other forms of transport are secondary,” a spokesman for Ice Bike said in a statement. “Throughout the study, there is a general trend of fatalities increasing year-on-year. So when planning a bike tour, it’s important to know which states you are safest in.”
In the League of American Bicyclists’ annual ratings of “Bike Friendly” states, Wyoming ranked dead last in 2022.
“I am an avid road cyclist and find cycling in Wyoming a real mixed bag,” Travsky said. “One problem is that often our highways have minimal safe shoulders. They put rumbles on practically all roadways even when that leaves no shoulder. It can be scary.”
Cara Hamann, an assistant professor in epidemiology at University of Iowa’s College of Public Health who researches transportation safety, recommended proceeding “with caution” on interpreting the Ice Bike’s report.
“From what I understand, they were focused in on only one metric—fatality rates with population as the denominator,” Hamann, who herself is a cyclist and has worked on research on bike safety and crash injuries in Iowa and nationwide, told the Wyoming Truth. “It is always risky to make conclusions based on one metric. For example, you may see a very different picture if you looked at cyclist fatality rates by number of cyclists or number of cyclist miles traveled rather than by state population.”
As for Travsky, she has a safety tip for cyclists in Wyoming: dress brightly.
“Make every effort to be seen; that is really a huge deal,” she added. “I wear neon yellow most of the time, and I always have a flashing red light on the back of my bike.”