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Injury & Violence Prevention

Getting SC Geared Up for Safe Bicycling Practices

In the years 2005 to 2007, South Carolina had 49 deaths and 360 non-fatal injuries due to bicyclists being struck by motorized vehicles. Compared to other states in the US, South Carolina is one of the most risky places to ride a bicycle according to data provided by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). South Carolina has ranked in the top ten among states in the US with the highest per capita bicycle fatality rate for the last decade. For many of those years, the per capita bicycle fatality rate has more than doubled the national average. From August 2009 to July 2011 through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Public Health Injury Surveillance Prevention Program grant, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) Division of Injury and Violence Prevention (DIVP) was able to provide bicycle safety rules and education on proper equipment use along with supplying bicycle helmets, reflective ankle bands and vest, and bicycle lights to bicyclists of all ages at bicycle rodeos, schools and other community events.

Bicycle use laws and safety guidelines are often unknown or misunderstood by bicyclists. Bicyclists with little or no knowledge of bicycle laws, safety rules, and proper use of protective and reflective gear are at greater risk for injury or death on public roads and off-road trails. South Carolina’s bicycle fatality rates have been consistently above the national average. South Carolina’s fatality rate is 0.4/100,000 population versus the national average of 0.23/100,000 population. South Carolina has been one of the top ten states with the highest rates of cycling fatalities, more than double the national average in some years, but still lacked a statewide educational program, which appealed to bicyclists of all ages.

SCDHEC by brainstorming and collaborating with subject matter experts and advocates decided to partner with the Palmetto Cycling Coalition (PCC) to implement a Bicycle Safety Initiative in August 2009. This program would provide the tools and knowledge to bicyclists of all ages that are particularly vulnerable due to inadequate visibility. The Initiative is promoted by a brochure that incorporates South Carolina bicycle laws; bicycle safety rules and displays vivid color pictures demonstrating proper use of safety equipment. SCDHEC DIVP also created another brochure that PCC members and affiliates use when teaching about proper helmet use. The brochure is distributed when a helmet is provided through the Initiative. Safety items are provided to participants, who are then equipped with the knowledge to make them safer on the roads and trails.

The community responded very favorably to the program. This program resulted in over 30 events in 2009 through 2011 that involved the partnership of nearly 16 different bike clubs and non-profit organizations around the state. At these events, several thousand parents and children received promotional materials, educational lectures, and the safety items. Traditionally, there is very little funding for initiatives such as the Bicycle Initiative, so the PCC and their local affiliates were thrilled to find out that safety items and resources would be available at no cost. Volunteers at these organizations jumped at the opportunity to share these resources with those in need in the community. Participants learned about South Carolina bicycle laws and the importance of safe bicycling, which enhances the health and safety of the community. PCC and SCDHEC DIVP were also able to foster relationships with organizations at the local level they normally did not have the opportunity to work with and as a result became a great forum to network and share best practices.

Strategies for Success

  • Provide education on bicycle safety rules and laws and give out accompanying safety items to attract participants.
  • Collaborate with schools, clubs and local organizations to participate in bicycle rodeos and other community events.

Target Audience
The target audience of this effort is people of all ages in South Carolina who are in need of bicycle safety and visibility equipment.

Funding Source
Through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Public Health Injury Surveillance Prevention Program grant.

“It is also very important that children remain safe while learning how to ride a bicycle and while being physically active. Thank you for providing this important piece of the puzzle!”

Debbie Hayworth
Community Building Director, United Way of York County, SC

Contact Information
Nichole Kent Spivey, MBA, Manager
Public Health Injury Surveillance Prevention Program
Division of Injury & Violence Prevention
1800 St. Julian Place, Columbia, SC 29204
(803) 545-4507 Fax (803) 545-4503

Rachael Brunson, Executive Director
Palmetto Cycling Coalition
141-F Pelham Drive, Suite 116
Columbia, SC 29209