The Biggest Threat to Cyclists in the Bay Area
12/11/2020 12:00 am
- Updated 12/10/2020 1:29 pm
Cycling reduces traffic congestion and is environmentally-friendly. Many city leaders have created bike lanes and protected bike paths to encourage more cyclists to bike safely. California even has a “Three Feet for Safety Act,” which requires a vehicle to allow at least three feet of space when passing a cyclist or driving alongside them.
Even with such protections in place, cycling accidents happen. Statistics show that bicycle-related accidents are on the rise. And it’s no surprise that the biggest threat to cyclists remains sharing the road with larger vehicles.
In a study conducted by AT&T on the use of phones and driving, as many as 98 percent of drivers know that sending a text or email while driving is dangerous. Drivers are aware that they have a responsibility for the safety of cyclists and others on the road. Even when a cyclist is moving slower than traffic, a cyclist has the right to “take the lane.” Drivers also understand that they have to follow other laws put in place to prevent accidents. For example, a driver should not text and drive because such actions distract the driver from the road.
Yet, even with laws in place to keep drivers focused on the road, and even though drivers know that texting and driving is not safe, it still happens. And it happens a lot more than we would like to admit. According to AT&T’s study, 61 percent admitted to texting and driving, one-third checked their email, 17 percent admitted to taking a selfie while driving (referred to as a steering-wheel selfie), and one in 10 drivers admitted to video-chatting on their drive home.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that distracted driving caused over 2,841 deaths in 2018. Safety experts say that drivers are three times more likely to crash if they are dialing a number on their phone while driving. Drivers are more than 23 times more likely to crash if they are texting and driving.
With such staggering data, it is no surprise that the NHTSA reports that bicycle-related accidents involving death have increased 30 percent in the last 10 years. In 2009, the recorded number of deaths involving cyclists was 785. In 2018, that number climbed to 1,024 nationwide.
California mirrors this nationwide trend with cyclist deaths increasing each year. In 2009, the recorded number of bicyclist fatalities recorded in California was 99. In 2018, that number reached 155.
Statistics also show that bicycle-related deaths increase in the warmer months. For example, in 2018, the month of May saw 81 deaths and the very next month, the death count increased to 118. From June through September, the death count remained high, with more than 100 deaths each month, before decreasing in October.
Statistics from the National Safety Council show that in 2018, males accounted for 87 percent of all bicycle deaths — more than six times the number of female deaths. Age also matters. According to NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts , the age group at most risk is adults aged 35-to-54 years old. Forty-seven was the average age of bicyclists killed in 2017. That year, Sacramento, California, was included as one of the three largest cities nationwide with the highest cyclist fatality rates about 5.98 bicyclist fatalities per one million people.
The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics shows that in 2018, non-fatal injuries were actually on a downward trend, with a total of 289,076 injuries nationwide.
Causes for Bicycle-Related Accidents
Aside from distracted driving, there are three other categories that NHTSA reports attribute to cyclist deaths nationwide:
37 percent involve alcohol