RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Transportation officials are concerned about the rise in cyclist deaths across Virginia.
The state is seeing an 80% increase in bicyclist-related deaths, according to the DMV, which has reported 160 bicyclist-involved crashes so far this year. Of those — nine people died. In 2022, five people were killed, according to the DMV.
“Our average number has been about 11 or 12 a year, that’s still too many,” John Saunders, the director of the DMV’s Highway Safety office said.
He added that part of the reason why the numbers are up is because the winter of 2022-2023 was more mild than average, meaning more people were out on the roads earlier in the year.
“It is a shared responsibility to not drive distracted and to stay focused on the task of driving,” Saunders said.
Jonah Holland was hit and killed in Henrico County while cycling in August 2022. The driver was charged with DUI and is set to go to trial this year. Natalie Rainer, who was injured in that same crash, was hospitalized for a month. She’s about 90% of the way to a full recovery.
“Going through the accident definitely has made me a lot more circumspect,” she said.
Rainer said cycling will always be a part of her life, but these recent numbers make her nervous.
“I do think that there’s a hard lesson learned that we’re just so vulnerable out on the road and we really need drivers to be more aware of our safety and just to care about us as human beings,” she said.
Improved signage, lane markings and better messaging are efforts that localities should continue to get the alarming numbers down, Saunders said.
However, Doug Allen, who’s a part of Richmond’s cycling community and has had a couple of close calls himself, said it takes much more than signs and lane markings to make this a safer community. He added that if things don’t change soon these numbers will keep going up.
“The cars are getting bigger. They’re heavier. They can go faster,” he said. “You kind of combine that with a lack of safe infrastructure that’s being built to separate drivers and other more vulnerable users, like pedestrians and cyclists, and it’s a bad combination,” he said.