Is Los Angeles Becoming More Dangerous for Bicycle Riders?


Biking is a popular way to get around in Los Angeles, California because of the nice weather and the high traffic density. Unfortunately, biking also presents significant risks, explains a California cycle accident lawyer. In fact, a recent study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has demonstrated that bicycle riding in Los Angeles is more dangerous than in other parts of the country.

Researchers’ surveys revealed that 2.8 percent of all victims of fatal crashes in Los Angeles are bike riders. This is nearly double the national percentage of bike riders killed in car accidents.

Data from the California Office of Traffic Safety also shows a high number of crashes, especially in the Los Angeles area. According to OTS statistics, 4,191 bicyclists were killed or injured in the county and 12,763 bicyclists were killed or injured in the state in 2010. The OTS also indicated that Los Angeles was in the worst 25% of the state’s counties for the number of bicyclist deaths and injuries.

The streets of Los Angeles are also dangerous for pedestrians, with 32 percent of the city’s fatal crashes involving pedestrians as compared with 22 percent nationally.

According to the Dailey Breeze, one of the two researchers who conducted the study, Michael Sivak, believes that the high number of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities is due to the increase in the population in Los Angeles. With more people on the road in large cities, there is more bicyclist and pedestrian traffic, as well as more traffic in general. More people on the road means more interaction and a greater potential for crashes.

An Increasing Risk

While there is an inevitable danger to bike riders and pedestrians resulting from the large volume of traffic in Los Angeles, statistics show that things are getting worse for bike riders. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, for example, Los Angeles County had only 2,941 bike fatalities or injuries in 2006 as compared to the 4,191 injuries or fatalities in 2010. The number of injuries or deaths in the state was also lower at 10,507 in 2006.

This increase may be attributed to many factors, including more adults riding their bicycles for exercise or to work. It occurs at a time when other categories, such as DUI injuries and fatalities, have been declining—and the trend of bicyclists and pedestrians being hit is expected to continue according to Chris Cochran, a spokesman for the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Protecting Bike Riders 

In order to curb the increasing risk to bicycle riders, protections need to be put into place and action needs to be taken to encourage bike riders and drivers to share the road safely and respectfully. A proposed bill would have required a three-foot buffer between bicycles and cars, but Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill, leaving bike riders without this protection.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles currently imposes on bike riders the same rights and the same responsibilities as motorists. This means, for example, that bike riders on public roads have to follow stop signs, traffic signs and road signals, and cars have to yield to bikes when required by law. However, simply treating bicycles the same as vehicles and imposing the same rights and responsibilities on them is not sufficient to protect bike riders from the high risk of fatalities.

Fortunately, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Temple City and South Pasadena currently have bike plans in place that are designed to strengthen the protection to bikers and improve the relationship between bike riders and drivers.

The Los Angeles Bicycle Plan, for example, was created by the Department of City Planning (DCP) and Department of Transportation (DOT). It designates 1,680 miles of facilities for bicycles including bike lanes, bicycle paths and bicycle friendly streets. The bike plan has a five-year implementation schedule and is to be coordinated through the Bicycle Plan Implementation Team.  The success of the plan relies not just on the efforts of the DOT and Public Works, but also “on the community’s desire to share the roadway with bicyclists.”

The hope with this plan and with similar plans in other counties is to make the roads safer for bike riders and to reduce the number of fatalities. Ultimately, however, bike riders are vulnerable to drivers choosing to treat them with care and respect. If a driver fails to obey the laws, infringes on the space and rights of the bike rider, or otherwise acts in a careless and negligent manner, California law allows the bicyclist or his or her surviving family members to take legal action and recover damages when a bicycle accident causes injury or death.

Additional information on transportation safety and the civil claims process is available to the public free of charge through our office.

If you would like to request one of these free resources, or to discuss a specific legal matter with a California cycle accident lawyer, feel free to call 1-888-834 5055.

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