80-year old Garden Grove cyclist killed; third SoCal bike death in three weeks

An 80-year old Garden Grove man died yesterday after being hit by a car while riding on the sidewalk.

According to KCBS Channel 2, the man was hit when a Ford F-250 pickup made a right turn from a the driveway of a business near the intersection of Brookhurst Street near Jennrich Avenue in Garden Grove. The victim’s name has been withheld pending notification of next-of-kin; my condolences to his family and loved ones.

The Orange County Register reports that the 36-year old driver remained at the scene, telling police that he looked for traffic before pulling out of the parking lot, but didn’t see the cyclist; no arrest has been made, and alcohol or drugs is not believed to have been a factor.

This tragedy is a reminder that, contrary to common perceptions, it’s actually a lot more dangerous to ride on the sidewalk than in the street.

Drivers exiting driveways and parking lots are focused on traffic as they try to enter the street, and may not see anyone approaching on the sidewalk — even though they should. And visibility for drivers is greatly reduced, as nearby buildings can hide riders from view until the last second.

In fact, one prominent study found a nearly 25% greater risk factor for cyclists riding on the sidewalk as opposed to riding a typical street. In other words, while you might be frightened by those cars buzzing by, you’re a lot safer in the street where drivers can see you then relying on the false security of the sidewalk.

And just how sad is it that in this age of rampant hit-and-run, it’s necessary for a reporter to mention that the driver didn’t run away?

This marks the third biking fatality in Southern California in less than three weeks, following the deaths of Joseph Powers and Kevin Unck less than 10 days into the new year.

Be careful out there.

6 comments

  1. Brent says:

    From the article’s description, it seems the accident happened around here (opens Google Maps):

    http://tinyurl.com/4g95fxf

    Brookhurst looks like a six-lane “highway” there, with a concrete median preventing a left turn out of a driveway. If I were to speculate, I’d say the driver was probably looking one way and not the other when he hit the cyclist. The cyclist was eighty years-old; it’s hard to imagine him speeding down the sidewalk and appearing “out of nowhere.”

    Would the driver have missed a pedestrian, too?

    I have to say that I have a hard time with the studies showing more danger in sidewalk riding, especially when they’re used to argue against cycletracks. I’d argue that it’s not sidewalk riding itself that’s dangerous, but rather intersections, and more particularly, driving practices at intersections. We need to do a better job educating drivers that, in fact, they don’t always have the right-of-way at intersections, and never on sidewalks.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks, Brent. I meant to include a link to the intersection and somehow left it out.

      In this case, I think you’re right. My best guess is that the driver was looking left towards oncoming traffic, and the cyclist rode in from the right; like many drivers, he may have started going before looking back in the opposite direction.

      Cycletracks and sidewalks are two different things; anyone who uses one to argue against the other is missing the point entirely. You’re right about the need to educate drivers about right-of-way at intersections. The real problem with riding on the sidewalk is that you have an intersection every few feet.

  2. “you’re a lot safer in the street where drivers can see you then relying on the false security of the sidewalk.”

    Just like many are picky with the difference between ‘accident’ and ‘collision’, and their meanings, I have to take issue with your use of ‘false sense of security’. People may overestimate their safety when riding on sidewalks, with many driveways and potential confusion at intersections, however, the people riding are not operating solely under ‘false sense of security’. I didn’t know how to phrase it before but David Hembrow makes it very clear that practices like sidewalk riding, helmets, reflective vests… these are primarily tools of ‘subjective safety’ to compensate for inadequately safe bicycle facilities – “Do I FEEL safer doing this, or using this device”. They might do little in actual safety, but they are things that get people to ride. Subjective safety isn’t ‘false’ or non-existent.

    Hembrow does a great job on explaining subjective safety, physical safety, and social safety and I highly recommend you check that out.

    I ride on streets, but I think slow cycling can be very much physically safe on sidewalks.

    • bikinginla says:

      Duly noted. I do understand the concept of subjective safety, and more than recognize the lack of adequate infrastructure. However, based on the studies I’ve seen and my own personal observation, I remain convinced that cyclists are most often safer on the street than on sidewalks, despite the misperception of safety.

      That said, there are locations where I do take to the sidewalk myself; one being the westbound Block of Death between Beverly Hills and where the bike lanes begin on Santa Monica Blvd. In my experience, drivers tend to speed and shift lanes carelessly, and aren’t looking for bikes there. But that is also a strip bounded by a golf course, with no cross streets or driveways to put a rider at risk.

      And thanks for the heads-up about Hembrow. I’ve added a live link to your comment to make it easier to navigate, and I’ve added him to my Reader to keep up with his blog.

      • Hembrow’s blog is great, it is among my favorite bicycle blogs. I am not really one for recreational bicycle blogs, or mechanics of bikes, but I still enjoy these topics when Hembrow posts about repairing brakes or a ride he does with friends. Glad he’s on your Reader now!

  3. […] No one has ever been killed by a car reversing out of a driveway while they were riding a bike on a sidewalk. [Response: You’re lucky. Many people are not.] […]

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