Bicycling continues to grow in popularity here in Santa Rosa and throughout California. It’s a great form of exercise and an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint (by biking instead of taking a car). Unfortunately, being a bicyclist or pedestrian in much of California just isn’t safe. Our infrastructure was built for motor vehicles, and any safety measures installed to benefit non-motor vehicles were an afterthought, at best.
Statewide statistics for traffic safety often take a couple of years to accurately compile and analyze. But the most recently available data show that California is headed in the wrong direction when it comes to bicyclist safety. According to a report released earlier this year, the three-year period from 2016-2018 saw more bicyclist deaths than any three-year period in the past quarter-century.
Some 455 bicyclists were killed in crashes between 2016 and the end of 2018. While the exact reasons for the increase haven’t been studied, bicyclist advocates and safety experts have cited a number of likely factors, including:
- The increase in driver distraction, especially from cellphones
- The increase in Uber, Lyft and other rideshare services, resulting in more drivers cruising around while waiting for fares
- The increased popularity of pickup trucks and SUVs, which are heavier than standard sedans and tend to strike bicyclists higher on the body (making accidents fatal rather than simply injurious)
- More bicyclists on the road more often, but not enough to adequately change driver behavior and make them more aware of cyclists
Reducing speed limits in certain areas and asking drivers to pay more attention to their surroundings would significantly reduce accident rates. Both of these measures are easy in concept, but they would require many drivers to change their individual behaviors.
Until or unless changes are made in a widespread manner, bicyclist safety will continue to be a major problem in California. If you or a loved one has been severely injured (or worse) by a negligent driver, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.