The sad stats behind this year’s rash of Southern California bike deaths

I’ve started a database to track information about biking fatalities throughout the Southern California area.

It’s not just morbid curiosity.

I’ve gotten tired of people blaming cyclists for the unacceptably high rate of riding deaths, and wanted to be able to respond to baseless accusations with actual, factual statistics. And I want to be able to offer more than just anecdotes when arguing for better bike safety measures before various state and local bodies.

So far, it’s complete for this year only, from January 1st to date. As time allows, I plan to go back through my files and include every riding fatality I can find for the last few years.

If you know of a bike rider who was killed in Southern California — which for the purpose of this exercise I’m defining as anywhere between Santa Maria south to the Mexican border — prior to this year, feel free to send me the information or a link to the news story to ensure I don’t miss it.

I’ve been debating whether to share that information, though. In some ways, I think there’s too much focus here on the tragedies on our streets, especially this year with the rash of riding deaths we’ve seen. Lord knows, I’d much rather discuss happier topics.

However, I believe very strongly that that every fallen rider should be remembered. And that nothing will change if we don’t call attention to it — because no one else is likely to if we don’t.

However, that decision was made for me when Steve Vance, author of Steve Can Plan — one of the nation’s leading biking and transportation planning blogs — asked for more information following last night’s tragic death of Alex Romero.

And as long as I shared the information with him, I might as well share it with you.*

• Wednesday’s tragic hit-and-run death of Alex Romero was the 24th fatality of a cyclist in Southern California this year; 22 in traffic incidents or riding accidents and two by shootings while riding.

• Of those killed in traffic, 11 were the fault of the driver, the cyclist was at fault in nine, and two were undtermined; in two of the 11 collisions where the driver was at fault, poor street design may have been a contributing cause.

• Two cyclists died in solo collisions; one additional rider lost control and fell in front of an oncoming car.

• Two cyclists were killed by trains while crossing railroad tracks.

• Three were killed while riding on the sidewalk.

• Two died while riding without lights after dark, one was riding on wrong side of street.

• Despite common accusations against cyclists, none died as a result of running stop signs or red lights.

•Four of the deaths were hit-and-runs.

•At least five involved drugs and/or alcohol — four drivers, 1 cyclist — though we can safely assume that some of the hit-and-runs were likely committed under the influence, as well.

• Location, by county (includes shootings):

  • Los Angeles – 8
  • Orange County – 4
  • San Diego – 7
  • Ventura – 1
  • Santa Barbara – 2
  • Riverside – 2

• The current rate projects to 83 cyclists dying on the streets of Southern California in 2011, compared to an average of 100 deaths throughout the state each year.

* A quick note about necessary biases in my methodology. This database contains all the fatal cycling incidents of which I am aware; any incidents which failed to make the news or which I did not learn about by other means cannot be included here. In assigning fault, I accepted the determination of the investigating authorities where available, even when that was questionable; where no official determination was available, I made my own determination based on the information on hand. In the event of a hit-and-run, I assigned blame to the driver in the absence of any conflicting information.

.………

Cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels reports that the trial of Marco Antonio Valencia is on hold until next week, and could conclude as early on Monday. He speculates that the defense attorney is building an argument that Valencia was too intoxicated to appreciate the danger he posed behind the wheel, negating the required intent for conviction under the murder charge for the hit-and-run death of Joseph Novotny

However, even if the defense is successful in convincing the jury that Valencia was too wasted to know what the hell he was doing — or more accurately, the risk that he posed — his client still faces as much as 20 years on the other charges and numerous probation violations.

.………

The San Fernando Bicycle Club will be hosting a memorial ride on Sunday in honor of Jim Swarzman. The ride — Jim’s favorite with the club — will start at 8 am at the NW corner of Nordhoff and Etiwanda in Northridge; it will be a challenging 40 mile ride, with over 2,000 feet of climbing.

And yes, it is open to everyone.

Speaking of Swarzman, plans are in the works to improve road safety on Hwy 101 where he was killed by a hit-and-run driver; unfortunately, it comes a little too late.

And the LACBC reports receiving over $2500 in donations made in Swarzman’s name following the request of his family and his fiancé Nicole Honda’s request that donations be made to the LACBC in lieu of flowers. Honda also asked that anyone touched by Swarzman’s story get involved by joining the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition or the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition.

Donations can be made by PayPal or sent directly to the LACBC; indicate that it is for the Swarzman fund when you make your donation. You can make a difference on our streets by joining the LACBC, or giving a gift of membership to a friend or loved one, by clicking here.

.………

The bike rider who was bumped by a car, then fatally shot by a passenger in an apparent gang killing on Sunday, has been identified as 28-year old Manuel Santizo. According to KCBS-2, no arrests have been made.

Writing on the Midnight Ridazz forum, Aktive reports that Santizo was a hard-working man who gave most of the money from his job at Jack in the Box to his parents, and to the mother of his four-year old son. A ghost bike will be installed at the scene on Friday, while a car wash will be held on Saturday to benefit his family. Thanks to Dj Wheels for the heads-up.

.………

Best wishes to Eric B, who’s sporting a new sling and a broken collarbone after becoming collateral damage in a bike racing collision last weekend.

7 comments

  1. [...] The Sad Stats on Bike Deaths in SoCal in 2011 (Biking In L.A.) [...]

  2. [...] Sad Stats on Bike Deaths in SoCal in 2011 (Biking In L.A. via Sblog [...]

  3. [...] I am hopped up on coffee, because of Ted Rogers’s blog this morning. He has begun compiling a database to track people who die while riding their bicycles in Southern California (from Santa Maria down to the Mexico border.) Some of his [...]

  4. Allan says:

    Thanks for doing this. Yeah, I think it could be a great persuader in getting things done. Sadly these people going down has got me thinking, could I be next today?

    I don’t think there really should be any backlash from compiling this data. The fatalities are already public info and has been reported on. Your motive for doing so is for creating safer streets. How could anyone object if there’s no other alterior motive. (my assumption)

    There’s a few ghost bikes referenced here,
    http://midnightridazz.com/artist.php?artistId=638

  5. sautedman says:

    Aren’t there already organizations that track cyclist accidents and deaths?

    http://www.nhtsa.gov/Bicycles

    You should figure out where they get their information from and see if you can access the sources that are from Southern California. Otherwise, this will be an inconsistent hodge-podge.

    • bikinginla says:

      You’re right, this is and always will be inconsistent, because I’m relying on information that appears in the press, or which I receive from reliable sources.

      The NHTSA FARS database is an invaluable resource. However, it does not provide timely data; the most recent year for which information is available is 2009. It can’t tell you what happened last week, or provide up-to-date data for the current year.

      But more important, I don’t want to merely track gross numbers. The purpose of this database is to provide insights into how and why these fatalities occur, both so riders can avoid risk factors, and to provided real information to rebut anecdotal evidence.

      For instance, in Orange County, police agencies have started a campaign to prevent cycling deaths by increasing rider courtesy and cracking down on riders who run stop signs and red lights — yet none of the four OC deaths this year involved bad bicyclist behavior. Instead, authorities would do better to focus on drunk drivers and getting drivers to watch out for cyclists riding on the sidewalk, since three of the four cyclists killed were on the sidewalk, and two of the four were victims of drunk drivers.

      • Rob Cravens says:

        Good for you! We really need to reach out to the police, to educate them. Until police begin to crack down on unsafe drivers, instead of trying to get the cyclists under control, things won’t improve.

        Not saying, of course, there aren’t lots of unsafe cyclists. We all see them regularly. I would gladly trade increased enforcement of traffic laws on cyclists for increased enforcement on cars that drive unsafely/hit cyclists.

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