While cycling is being strongly promoted by county supervisors and city councils, what is not being promoted is safe cycling. Every day I witness cyclists failing to comply with traffic laws such as stopping at stop signs and red lights. While neither cyclists or motorists are saints, the impression given is that it the violations of the law by cyclists were much more commonplace.
So I asked the City of San Rafael Police department if they had any data that might shed light on the real situation.
Accidents Between Cars and Bicycles, March 2013- March 2014, San Rafael, CA
Driver at Fault: 11 (37%)
Cyclist at Fault: 15 (50%)
Mutual Fault: 3 (10%)
Undetermined: 1 (3%)
This clearly shows a story where cyclists are significantly more in the wrong – 50% vs 37%.
Stopping At Red Lights
A major concern is that few cyclists adhere to the law of stopping at a red light. Here are the statistics for March 2013 – March 2014:
Accidents between cars and bikes
#failure to stop at a Red Light: 2
Cyclist at Fault: 2 (100%)
Motorist at Fault: 0
Obtaining a Larger Sample Size: California 2012 Stats On the Way
Now this isn’t exactly the largest sample size – these are representative of a city of roughly 57,000 people over a 12 month period. In the interests of obtaining numbers with statistical significance I have been following up with the CHP to obtain statewide figures for California. The most recently available reporting year is 2012 as all cities and counties must report in with these stats and it takes time to collect and normalize them for the statewide figures.
The biggest concern here is that injuries are occurring – and my expectation is that the impact is disproportionately large on the more vulnerable cyclist. Besides the injury accidents are not only traumatic to all involved (including witnesses) but can lead to lawsuits. A good friend was involved in just such a lawsuit and for about a year suffered needless anxiety as his case was reviewed. He was the driver and a cyclist turned onto the street he was driving down (he had no stop signs – he was on a main thoroughfare traveling under the speed limit) but the cyclist did not adhere to a stop sign before turning onto the road.
This reinforces the need for two programs here in San Rafael:
- SRPD enforcement of traffic laws for cyclists, at red lights and stop signs.
- much more widespread education for cyclists. Now we have stats that can be very eye-opening, helping cyclists understand that disregard for red lights and stop signs (besides other traffic laws) can have severe, sometimes fatal, consequences for them.