It’s true that biking, walking, and riding electric scooters are becoming increasingly popular ways to get around town. This trend towards alternative transportation is beneficial in so many ways, but are the roadways safe and ready to be shared or are we increasing bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents and scooter accidents?
In California, cycling is becoming more popular each and every year, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is great news because it helps get cars off the road which is better for the environment, creates less traffic, and is generally healthier for the riders. Conceivably, less motor vehicle traffic can result in less auto, truck and pedestrian collisions and thereby fewer injuries and fatalities. However, we can only reduce bicycle and pedestrian injuries and fatalities if the roadways are safe for all users to share.
According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report released in 2019, most vehicle occupant fatalities decreased from the year prior, but unfortunately, bicyclist and pedestrian deaths increased. The report states that there were 51 more cyclist deaths which rose by 6.3 percent from 2017 to 2018, and there were 208 more pedestrian deaths which rose by 3.4 percent. In fact, the report shows that the 857 bicyclist fatalities in 2018 are the highest in almost 30 years. The increase in cycling fatalities appears to mainly be in urban areas. Since 2009, the number of cyclist fatalities in urban areas has risen by 48 percent.
These statistics prove there is a need for safer roadways, and everyone from city planners to bicyclists to motorists needs to play a role in making this happen.
In order to start addressing roadway safety issues, city planners need to determine where, when and why crashes or injuries and deaths involving bicyclists and pedestrians are happening. In 2014, San Francisco developed a Vision Zero road safety policy in order to start this process. The goal of the policy was to prioritize traffic safety and to build better and safer streets, educate the public on traffic safety, enforce traffic laws, and adopt policy changes that save lives. The policy’s plan is to work towards eliminating traffic fatalities by 2024.
While San Fransisco and other cities have been successful in providing a safer biking and pedestrian environment by making improvements such as protected bike lanes, wider sidewalks and reduced traffic speeds, more work needs to be done. Educating the public and enforcing traffic laws should also be made a priority to decrease the number of injuries and fatalities.
Bicyclists and motorists can help by following the rules of the road. They both need to know the laws and watch out for each other. By law, bicycles on the roadway are vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities as cars. Riding a bicycle in city traffic can be tricky and dangerous. If a bicyclist doesn’t follow the laws and rides the wrong way in a bike lane, runs a red light or rides on the sidewalk, accidents are very likely to occur.
The same goes for motorists. They need to learn to look carefully for bicyclists before turning, merging into bicycle lanes and opening doors next to moving traffic. They also must understand that bicyclists are entitled to share the road with them. Motorists and bicyclists share responsibility for helping to make California roads safe for everyone.
In the next article, bicycle safety tips will be explored further. Until then you can watch this video to learn more about what to do if you are involved in a bicycle accident, how insurance works and other biking hazards that could cause injuries.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle accident on California streets, please seek legal help as soon as possible. For comments, questions, or legal services from an experienced San Francisco motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian and auto accident attorney please feel free to call me at 415-432-7290, or visit www.ccwlawyers.com. All calls and email inquiries are covered by the attorney-client privilege and are strictly confidential.
Claude A. Wyle is a partner of Choulos Choulos, and Wyle, a San Francisco based law firm dedicated to representing clients who have been injured by the wrongful conduct of individuals, corporations, public entities, and businesses. Mr. Wyle also frequently sits as a Judge Pro Tem for the city and county of San Francisco.