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What can California do to stop bicycle accidents?

In our last post, we discussed new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) revealing that bicycle fatalities are on the rise throughout the United States. Today we are going to discuss the data from the report affecting California, specifically, and the GHSA’s recommendations to reduce bicycle fatalities.

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that California was the No. 1 state in the nation for bicyclist deaths between 2010 and 2012, with 338 bicyclists killed in accidents with motor vehicles. California also saw the largest increase in annual cyclist traffic fatalities from 2010 to 2012, with fatalities increasing by more than 18 percent. 

In fact, the report indicated that most people who are killed in bicycle accidents are adult males who live in California or Florida. And while bicycle deaths account for just 2 percent of fatal motor vehicle accidents nationally, they account for twice that in the state of California.

As California clearly has room for improvement when it comes to bicycle safety, state and local officials should carefully consider the recommendations for safety improvements that were included in the GHSA’s report.

First, the report suggested that more needs to be done to take bicyclists out of the paths of cars and trucks. In a perfect world, that would mean creating a separate system of bike paths throughout the city, but unfortunately that is usually not physically or economically feasible.

Instead, the GHSA said cities may want to consider options such as building more bike lanes on existing roads, adding “bike boxes” at intersections to protect bicyclists from cars making right-hand turns and special bike signals for bicyclists that give them a green light in advance.

Hopefully, city and state officials will consider these options in effort to make the state safer for bicyclists. Not only are residents being put in harm’s way, the state and local governments are potentially exposing themselves to liability in personal injury lawsuits by not acting to improve a known problem.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Bicycle traffic deaths soar; California leads nation,” Jerry Hirsch, Oct. 27, 2014

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