Wilmington isn't North Carolina’s largest city, but it ranks high for bike-vehicle crashes
In North Carolina, the city of Wilmington is seven times smaller than Charlotte. It is four times smaller than Raleigh. But it competes with both larger cities in one sad stat — bicycle crashes.
Crash information compiled by the state of North Carolina since 2000 showed Wilmington ranked third, with 1,082 bike crashes, according to WHQR.
Only Charlotte (population 859,035) with 2,125 bike crashes and Raleigh (population 464,758) with 1,580 bike crashes topped the number of bike crashes in Wilmington (population 119,045) in North Carolina.
Seen another way, from 2011-2015, Wilmington led North Carolina with 4.9 bike-vehicle collisions for every 10,000 residents a year. That’s according to a January 2018 study by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center.
And it wasn’t even close: Next highest in that study were 2.4 bike-vehicle collisions for every 10,000 residents in Greenville and 2.3 bike-vehicle collisions for every 10,000 residents in Asheville.
What's driving the high rate of crashes with bicyclists?
It’s unclear why Wilmington ranks third in North Carolina for bike accidents. Why is The Port City so much more dangerous for bike riders than other communities in The Tar Heel State? Lack of infrastructure that caters to bicyclists is one reason.
Streets in most cases were designed for cars, not bicycles. Wilmington officials are embracing the planning that recognizes bikes as part of the transportation mix. Multi-use trails allow space for walking, biking, running or any other form of commuting that doesn’t involve driving.
The key, said Wilmington Traffic Engineer Don Bennett, is to try building a variety of paths into future road projects. These include wider roads with bike lane spaces.
Other factors are similar to those related to other kinds of crashes. These include drivers and bicyclists failing to stay aware and being distracted by cellphone use and other distractions.
For bicyclists, that can mean not wearing earbuds.
“I think that is probably the one thing that would yield the greatest benefit in the quickest amount of time, is being engaged in your surroundings,” Bennett said. “It doesn't cost anything. It doesn't have a permitting process. It doesn't have a design process. It can happen tomorrow.”
What is Wilmington doing to make its streets safer?
Dylan Lee, the city of Wilmington spokesman, said the city is trying to make its roads friendlier to bicyclists in light of the study. The corrections are coming in the face of “years and years back through the eighties and nineties” of planning done without regard for bike riders, he said.
Now, Wilmington has residents and a city council willing to play catch-up in terms of making its streets safer for bicyclists, he said.
The University of North Carolina study said a variety of factors that impact these collisions. They include:
- The number of people riding
- The volume of other traffic
- Characteristics of certain locations
Still, Wilmington stands out. From 2011-2015, a majority of bicycle crashes with vehicles occurred within the counties in the Piedmont region. That's where most people in the state live in central North Carolina. Wilmington ranks third for bike accidents even though the city is in the Coastal Plains, in eastern North Carolina. That's where, generally, fewer bike-vehicle crashes occur.
Contact The Law Offices Of Richard Flexner in Wilmington, North Carolina, today for help with bicycle crashes, along with assistance with car, truck and motorcycle crashes.