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Understanding Bicyclist-Motorist Crashes

A comprehensive look at crash data in Louisville, Kentucky
from 2003-2012 and recommendations for improved bicycle safety

Bike Louisville
Metro Public Works & Assets
Louisville Metro Government
January 24, 2014

Please click here to view the full report (PDF)

Key Findings from 2003-2012:

When crashes occur:

  • An average of 155 bicyclist-motorist crashes occurs annually in Louisville.
  • Crashes are most prevalent from April-October (80.2 percent), on weekdays (76.9 percent) and during afternoon peak period from 3:00-6:00 p.m. (30.3 percent).
  • Crashes mostly occur on clear or cloudy days (94.4 percent), when the road surface is dry (91.8 percent).

Who is involved:

  • Most vehicles on the roadways excluding bicyclists are passenger cars (66 percent) and light truck/sports utility/pickup (24%).
  • Bicyclist age is tracked for 2000-2012 data. The cohort aged 25-34 was the most prevalent - involved in 15.2 percent of crashes.
  • Crashes involving known drug use or drinking are limited. Bicyclists are impaired in 1.2 percent of crashes and motorists in 1.2 percent of crashes.

Injuries and fatalities:

  • Bicyclists sustained an injury in 62.8 percent of crashes.
  • There were 16 bicyclist fatalities from 2003-2012. Non-incapacitating injuries were sustained 31.3 percent of crashes.

Causes of crashes:

  • The most common pre-crash maneuvers for bicyclists in 2006 were going straight ahead (87.5 percent), bicyclist making left turn (2.5 percent), bicyclist parked (2.5 percent), and bicyclists going the wrong way (2.5 percent).
  • The most common pre-crash maneuvers for motorists in 2003 were vehicle going straight ahead (49.2 percent), vehicle making left turn (16.3 percent) and vehicle making right turn (14.3 percent).

Where crashes are occurring:

  • Crashes occur in all areas of Louisville, although there is a clear concentration along major arterial with high volumes of motor vehicles.
  • The highest crash volume intersections in 2012 are Eastern Parkway and Bardstown Road (14), Bardstown Road and Grinstead Drive (11), Broadway and 2nd Street (8), East Broadway and South Jackson Street (8) and Taylor Boulevard and Oleanda Avenue (6).


The analysis of bicyclist-motorist crashes found that crashes are complex events and there is no one factor that is contributing to crashes. However, four primary conclusions emerge from the data:

  1. Most crashes are occurring at intersections along major arterials.
  2. Motorist are not seeing or yielding to bicyclists.
  3. Bicyclists are failing to yield right-of-way.
  4. Bicyclist inattention.


Recommendations for Improved Bicyclist Safety

Over the past decade, Louisville has made great strides in the area of bicyclist safety. This analysis confirms that many of the improvement made are effective and should continue. The findings also highlight the need for new focus areas, including continued use of best practices in engineering. The recommendations for improved bicyclist safety are the following:


Distracted Driving Campaign. Generate awareness about “On Text or Call Could Wreck It All.” Remind others that the price for not paying attention to the road is too high, and that we all have a part to play in making sure everyone keeps their eyes and mind on the road and hands on the wheel.

Distracted Bicyclist Campaign.
Develop and implement a safety campaign aimed in part at bicyclists who are not paying attention while bicycling.
Sharing the Road safety campaign. 
For drivers and bicyclists, media can efficiently disseminate safety messages quickly and broadly. Public service messages produced by the City are currently available online and are played regularly on local television.
Comprehensive school-age and adult bicycle safety program. 
Local certified bicycling host dozens of rides and classes each year, reaching hundreds of bicyclists. Moreover. Louisville’s Bike Sense program teaches 1,000’s of youth how to ride safety through a 5 day on-bike curriculum. While these curriculums often focus on commuting, maintenance and route planning, safety is always an underlying theme. Findings of this research should be incorporated into future curriculum.


Bike to Work Day events. Such events promote bicycling through media, events, literature and online materials. However, the most visible bicycling element in the city is the infrastructure itself. “Interested but concerned” bicyclists will not ride unless they see a comfortable place to ride.

Publish data and document results. 
Actual safety can help inform perceived safety. Publishing data and reporting on countermeasures will hold Public Works accountable and can let road users know if safety is improving.

See and Be Seen Campaign.
Distribute and encourage the use of lights to make bicyclists more visible, and lower night time death and injury rate.


Use enforcement as an educational tool. While enforcement should be an authoritative action, it can also educational. Many motorists and bicyclists simply do not know the rules of the road. Diversion programs can allow first time offenders a chance to learn the rules while avoiding a full penalty.

Ensure bicyclists and motorists are treated equally under the law. Bicycles are legally traffic and should be coded as such in crash reports. Current practices indicate this may not be the norm for bicycle-related motorist’s crashes.

Expand a relationship with the LMPD.

The primary actions of Public Works and Assets and the Police Department are separate. However, both departments share the goal of creating safer streets. This common goal should be explicitly recognized between department management and expand collaboration at all ranks.


Guide and protect bicyclists at intersections and on busy streets.

Most crashes are occurring at intersections and along major arterials. Protected signal phases or separated approaches may give bicyclists confidence when riding through complex spaces.

Provide designated and comfortable places for bicyclists to ride.

Bicyclists are not always riding in a predictable manner. While much of this is simply improper riding and illegal behavior, existing roadway design may contribute to risky maneuvers. Providing designated space for bicycle traffic can foster more predictable riding and increase bicyclist comfort.


Publish a regular safety report. 
This report is the first step in understanding bicyclist safety in Louisville. To monitor changes and evaluate future countermeasures, continuous and regular reporting is needed.

Increase understanding of crashes. 
While a there is now a greater understanding of what is causing crashes, many circumstances remain unclear. Public Works and Assets should continue to work with the Louisville Metro Police Department, to better understand what is causing crashes

Analyze bicycle automated counts.
Analyze data from bicycle automated counters to target high traffic areas for improvements or future bicycle facilities.

Public Works and other local organizations teach dozens of bicycle classes every year. Curriculum should incorporate the new findings of this report.

Facilities like buffered bike lanes (above) and cycle tracks have a high degree of safety and can attract a new demographic of bicyclists.
While enforcement should be an authoritative action, it can also be an educational tool seen in Louisville’s Bike Sense Cops for Kids Program.
The Bicycle Advisory Committee meets with LMPD staff to discuss enforcement efforts. Expanding a relationship with the LMPD is essential to improving safety for all road users.
Colored pavement markings can alert mortorist that they are crossing a bike lane and should yield to bicyclists before turning or merging.
Providing designated space for bicyclists can increase the predictability of where bicyclists ride and create a safer and more comfortable riding experience
When and where feasible, additional attributes from crash reports should be analyzed to gain a greater understanding of crash events.