Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bicyclists at fault for 60% of crashes in Bay Area

Some excerpts from the article:

Bicyclists were twice as likely as drivers to be at fault in the nearly 2,000 collisions that killed or severely injured Bay Area bike riders in the past decade, an analysis by The Chronicle shows.

(Bicycle and safety) advocates say large numbers of cyclists fail to follow the rules of the road, running stop signs and red lights, and drivers are becoming more aggressive. "There is a juggernaut out there - the tension between the cyclists and the drivers is so high that it's become a war," said triathlon coach Marc Evans, who is starting a campaign to get the cycling community, drivers and motorcyclists to put more focus on avoiding deadly collisions on the roads.

Bicycling advocates said the statistics might in part reflect a bias among police officers, who they say often "blame the victims," especially because cyclists might not get to tell their side of the story as they are being carried off on stretchers. "There is a prevalent perception among police officers that bikes don't belong on the road," said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Yet even the most staunch cycling advocates acknowledge that some cyclists give others a bad name by failing to obey traffic laws. "When I see a rider run a red light, I cringe," Shahum said. "Not only is it totally unsafe, it makes me and all other cyclists look bad."

The number of serious Bay Area crashes in which cyclists were at fault has hovered at about 100 per year for the past decade, but the number in which motorists were blamed has steadily risen - from 38 in 1997 to 61 in 2006, the last full year for which data were available. In addition, the number of accidents involving drivers hitting cyclists and then fleeing has spiked in recent years. Hit-and-run drivers killed four cyclists and severely injured 26 others in 2006 - significantly more than any other year in the past decade.

"There seems to be a natural tension between bicyclists and motorists," said Susan George, town manager of Woodside, who finds the streets in and around her hilly San Mateo County community swarming with cyclists, motorcycle riders, equestrians and drivers out for a good time on weekends and lunch hours. Groups of dozens or even hundreds of bicyclists sometimes take over the roads, blowing through stoplights and disobeying signs, she said. At the same time, some motorists retaliate aggressively, tailgating the bicyclists, honking at them and trying to force them off the road. The majority of cyclists obey the rules, and the motorists, too, but then you get these outlaws," George said. "It's an ongoing battle, and in recent years the tensions have gotten worse."

full article


Anonymous said...

In Knoxville during the cycling events I've seen similar behavior...

It's somewhat undefined as to what one should do when, as part of a group of 20-odd bicycles, a light goes from yellow to red and you don't have a police officer. It seems obvious! Stop! But when you're there and there's a dozen guys ahead of you are blazing forward and a dozen guys behind you are still going... You run the red light.

Then once you get used to running red lights, with or without police officers, you find yourself running them even without having a group if the coast is (seems) clear. ("I've run every other red light...")

I suppose there's this feeling that because you're part of this officially sanctioned bike ride that you have right of way throughout the route, even without a police officer watching the intersection. (Which obviously isn't the case... Safety first!)

It's not the same situation as described in the article, but, I suppose, Knoxville's equivalent.

kelley said...

Yes, before the rides, we try to get the message out that participants need to follow the rules of the road. Unless there is someone stopping traffic for the ride, bicyclists should be stopping at red lights and stop signs, but I know that doesn't happen all the time. We have a problem with our rides being so popular because it's hard to talk to that many people before the ride starts! I do hope that we get the message across that this is a special situation (the ride event) and that normally, they would really need to be obeying the law. If they pick up the bike map or the commute guide, they will see that message very clearly.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in a number of places where police ticketed cyclists for running lights and stop signs, so I am accustomed to following traffic law. Since I have moved to Knoxville, however, I have had to regularly run red lights. Why? Because the pressure pads are not sensitive enough to note my presense at an intersection.

There are three traffic lights along my regular commute where this is a problem. This is because my route uses lower-traffic roads that parallel main arteries and I periodically must cross them. Depending on the time of day, I can rely upon a motorist pulling up behind me to trip the light, but frequently my choices are between jay-walking and blowing the light on my bike. Since the bike gets me across the intersection faster, I ride.

I suppose some might embrace this as an opportunity to boost their anarchist cred, but I just want to get wherever I'm going.