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Board Meeting: Safety Research Report - Bicyclist Safety on US Roadways: Crash Risks and Countermeasures - Opening Statement
Robert L. Sumwalt
NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center, Washington, DC

Good morning and welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board.

I am Robert Sumwalt, and I’m honored to serve as the Chairman of the NTSB. Joining us are my colleagues on the Board, Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg and Member Jennifer Homendy.

Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider a Safety Research Report entitled Bicyclist Safety on US Roadways: Crash Risks and Countermeasures.

This is our third recent research product covering vulnerable road users. The other two were about the safety of pedestrians and motorcyclists, respectively. Vulnerable road users are those who share the road with motor vehicle drivers, but do not have the occupant protection that is required in such vehicles.

They are the road users who are most likely to lose life and limb on our roads and highways. And of all modes of transportation, highway transportation is the mode in which the lion’s share of deaths and injuries occur.

Last month, when highway fatality numbers were released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, we learned that 857 bicyclists died in crashes with motor vehicles in 2018—a 6.3% increase over 2017—and this was in a year when total road fatalities went down 2.4%.

Today’s report focuses on how we can prevent collisions between motor vehicles and bicycles by creating an infrastructure that separates bicycles from other traffic. Because preventing a crash from happening in the first place is our top priority.

When bicyclists and motorists can’t be separated, it’s important to maximize their awareness of each other to prevent collisions. That’s where improving bicyclist conspicuity and improving vehicle technology comes in.

And, in the event that a bicycle crash cannot be prevented, we know that the best possible protection for a bicyclist is always wearing a helmet.

Our researchers have made a very clear case, using data from a variety of sources, for each of the report’s findings. But I want to be clear what we are saying in plain English.

If we do not improve roadway infrastructure for bicyclists, bicyclists will die who otherwise would not. If we do not enhance bicyclist conspicuity, likewise, additional bicyclists will die. If we do not act to mitigate head injury for more bicyclists, additional bicyclists will die.

In the report that we discuss today, we have identified ways that bicycle safety can improve, and the organizations that can make the improvements happen. The question is whether these organizations will act.

Staff have completed a thorough analysis of pertinent information to compile this draft report, and each of the Board members has reviewed the draft prior to today’s meeting.

Today, staff will formally present their findings and recommendations to the Board, and we on the Board will then question staff to ensure that the report, as adopted, truly provides the best opportunity to enhance safety.

The public docket for the report contains supplemental data analyses and is available at Once finalized, the safety research report will also be available on our website.

Now Deputy Managing Director Paul Sledzik, if you would kindly introduce the staff.