Analyzing 2011 SoCal cycling fatalities: Los Angeles — and door zones — may be safer than you think

Earlier this month, we remembered the people behind the statistics, the victims of cycling collisions on Southern California streets.

Now lets take a look at the numbers. And some of the surprising findings those statistics reveal — including some that suggest Los Angeles could be your safest place to ride. And that the door zone may be a hell of a lot safer than we all think.

But first, a couple of big important disclaimers.

These stats are based strictly on the fatalities that I am aware of, whether they have been reported in the press or have come to my attention in other ways. It is entirely possible that there were other bicycling-related deaths that I don’t know about.

These numbers also do not include non-fatal collisions. It’s possible that any given area could have had a high rate of injury collisions while having few or no fatalities. Or that one risk factor may result in a high rate of fatalities but few injuries — or the other way around.

The limited data I have to work with simply doesn’t show that.

Nor does it suggest why one area may appear to be more dangerous than another, even though I may make a guess at it.

And with that, let’s get on with it.

By my count, 71 cyclists were killed in traffic-related collisions in Southern California last year. That does not include another nine riders who were fatally shot — eight in Los Angeles County and one in San Diego.

Those 71 fatalities represent a dramatic increase over most recent years on record, with 55 cyclists killed in both 2008 and 2009. In addition, it’s slightly more than the five-year average from 2005 to 2009, at just over 68 traffic-relating cycling fatalities per year.

It also marks a return to the roadway carnage of 2005 and 2006, when 76 and 89 riders were killed, respectively.

Fatalities by county: 2011       2009*       2006**     Ave. 2005 – 2009

Los Angeles                24           22             24           24.2

Orange                       13           11             21           13

San Diego                   12           8               5             8

Riverside                     11           7              14            10

San Bernardino            6            4              11            7.4

Ventura                       4            2              11            4.6

Santa Barbara***        1            1               3             1.8

Imperial                       0            1               0             .4

As you can see, Los Angeles County has remained remarkably steady despite a dramatic increase in ridership, with an average of two riders killed per month. At the same time, while Orange County has dropped significantly from the horrors of 2006, it continues to reflect an average of more than one cyclist killed every month.

Meanwhile, San Diego, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties all showed a 50% increase over 2009, though both Ventura and San Bernardino were still below their five-year averages.

At first glance, it would appear that Los Angeles County is by far the most dangerous place to ride in Southern California. However, L.A. is also the most populous of the eight counties included in this count.

Ranking the counties in terms of risk of death per capita reveals some surprises, with the eight counties ranked from worst to best:

County                    Population               Rate of death

Riverside                  2,100,516               1 death per 190,956 population

Ventura                   797,740                  1 per 199,435

Orange                    3,010,759               1 per 231,597

San Diego                3,001,072               1 per 250,089

San Bernardino        2,015,355               1 per 335,893

Santa Barbara***    405,396                  1 per 405,396

Los Angeles              9,862,049              1 per 410,919

Imperial                  174,528                   0 per 174,528

Unfortunately, there’s no objective measure of how many people ride bikes in each county. But surprisingly, these stats suggest that heavily congested L.A. County may actually be twice as safe as other heavily populated counties.

Those fatalities occurred in 53 cities and unincorporated areas throughout the region, with eight cities suffering more than one fatality last year:

San Diego   7

Los Angeles  5

Long Beach  4

Garden Grove  2

Redondo Beach  2

Pasadena  2

Riverside  2

Oceanside  2

Again, using the measurement of deaths per population reveals some very surprising results:

City                               Population                 Rate of death

Redondo Beach              66,748                      1 per 33,374

Pasadena                       137,122                    1 per 68,562

Oceanside                      167,086                    1 per 83,543

Garden Grove                 170,883                    1 per 85,441

Long Beach                    462,257                    1 per 115,564

Riverside                        303,871                    1 per 151,936

San Diego                      1,301,617                 1 per 185,945

Los Angeles                    3,792,621                 1 per 758,524

While multiple deaths in smaller cities may raise a red flag, they don’t really tell us much. Two deaths apiece in each in the first four cities could be a statistical fluke; just one more in any of the other 45 cities not listed here, and they could have made this list, as well.

It’s also worth noting that some of these cities, such as Oceanside and Redondo Beach, are destination areas for cyclists, with a level of weekend ridership that can far exceed their relatively small populations as cyclists pass through from other areas.

More interesting is the fact that the City of Angels, with it’s long-held reputation for car culture, bad streets and open hostility to cyclists, has significantly fewer fatalities per capita than Riverside and San Diego. Combined.

And at least in terms of fatalities, Los Angeles is over six times safer than bike-friendly Long Beach.

That could reflect any number of factors, from the possibility of better trauma care and emergency response times in L.A., to more dangerous streets in Long Beach — including Los Coyotes and PCH — that have yet to see the improvements that have made biking safer in other areas of the city.

But it’s shocking to think that you may actually be safer riding your bike in bike-unfriendly L.A. than the streets of the self-proclaimed most bicycle friendly city in America.

Then again, the real shocker is that L.A. could a hell of a lot safer than most of us thought.

Myself included.

Now let’s look at some equally surprising stats on how these collisions occurred.

Again, bear in mind that most of this information has been gleaned from media reports; in some cases, they offer a detailed analysis of the collision, and in others, barely mention anything more than the fact that it occurred.

We’ll start with the question of who was at fault.

  • Driver:  32
  • Cyclist:  28****
  • Unknown or both:  11

This is my own analysis of the collision, based on the limited information I have; it does not necessarily reflect how the police, sheriff’s or CHP may have assigned fault.

Especially since many investigative officers tend to be poorly trained in bike collision analysis and investigation, and often appear to be biased in favor of the motorist.

In the absence of any information to the contrary, I assigned hit-and-runs to the fault of the driver, on the assumption that an innocent person has little motive to flee — while recognizing that is not always true.

I have also assigned fault for solo collisions and riders hit by trains to the cyclist. Even though it’s possible that other factors, such as near misses by motorists or poor road conditions, may have contributed to the death in some way.

These numbers also err on the low side, reflecting only the information I have been able to document; in many cases, there was not enough information to make a determination.

And there may be multiple factors involved in any given collision, so these won’t add up to a total of 71.

So let’s look at some of the other numbers.

  • At least 25 riders were hit from behind — by far the leading cause of cycling fatalities in 2010
  • At least 13 were hit-and-runs
  • At least 12 were hit at intersections or driveways
  • At least 10 involved drugs or alcohol — and not always on the part of the driver
  • At least eight were hit while riding on or leaving a sidewalk
  • At least seven were hit head-on, usually while riding on the wrong side of the street
  • Seven were solo collisions
  • Seven victims were over the age of 70
  • At least six were killed after running stop signs
  • At least six were killed while riding in a marked bike lane or off-road bike path
  • At least six were killed in right hook collisions
  • Six 12 years old or younger
  • Another five were between the ages of 15 and 17
  • At least four weren’t using lights after dark
  • Three were killed by trains
  • Three were killed by out of control vehicles
  • At least two were killed by drivers running red lights or stop signs
  • At least two were killed distracted drivers
  • At least one was killed in a left cross
  • One was killed by a truck backing into a loading bay
  • One was killed, at least in part, due to poorly designed infrastructure
  • And just one was killed as a result of a dooring

Stop and think about that.

For decades, we’ve been taught that the door zone is one of the most dangerous places to ride; vehicular cyclists often refer to it as the death zone.

Yet these stats show just the opposite. You are far more likely to be killed in a hit-from-behind collision or at an intersection than you are by getting doored. And yet, the solution we’re invariably taught is to ride in the traffic lane, directly in front of traffic coming up from behind.

Maybe that’s because so many cyclists are heeding that advice and avoiding the door zone, while placing themselves at greater risk of getting hit from behind. Or maybe because hit-from-behind collisions tend to occur at higher speeds, reducing survivability, while doorings tend to be relatively slow speed collisions that are more likely to result in injury than death — especially if the rider is wearing a helmet to protect from head injuries in a fall.

And that’s not to say that riding in the door zone is safe. But it may be far less deadly than we have been lead to believe.

Of course, that’s not the only conclusion that jumps out from these numbers.

Like far too many drivers are willing to flee the scene, leaving their victims to die in the street. Too many cyclists run stop signs — especially when other vehicles are present.

Sidewalks remain dangerous places for cyclists, particularly where they intersect with streets and driveways.

Riders can lower their risk simply by riding on the right side of the road and using lights after dark. And staying of the roads after drinking or using drugs.

Ditto for stopping for trains; once the warning signals chime and the gates drop, stay the hell off the tracks. And that goes for drivers trying to beat a train, as well.

Bike lanes are no guarantee of safety. Yet there were fewer cyclists killed in bike lanes than on sidewalks and crosswalks, and far fewer than on streets without them. But that may just speak to the scarcity of bike lanes in most of Southern California.

Then there’s the single most glaring conclusion we can make from these fatalities.

Too many people have died, and continue to die, on our streets.

One is one too many; 71 is an obscenity.

And it’s clearly headed in the wrong direction.

Update: in response to one of the comments to this post, I’ve added information on how many of the victims were under 18; six riders were 12 or under when they were killed, while another five were aged 15 to 17. In addition, seven of the victims were over the age of 70.

……..

*Most recent year currently on record

**Worst of the five years on record

***I will drop Santa Barbara County from this count next year, to reflect the 7-county area included in the Southern California Council of Governments (SCAG)

****Includes solo collisions and collisions with trains

98 comments

  1. billdsd says:

    “For decades, we’ve been taught that the door zone is the single most dangerous place to ride; ”

    Exaggerate much? I don’t recall ever being told that it is the single most dangerous place to ride. Certainly I have been told that it is dangerous, and it is, but I don’t recall being told that it is the most dangerous.

    The dooring collision itself usually isn’t what causes death. It does, however often cause serious injury. I’d like to see stats on that. If the dooring collision is all that happens, then the bicyclist is a victim only of the force that they generate when they hit the door. Since most bicyclists tend to be travelling 10-20mph at most, that is usually not fatal but it can easily cause broken bones and other serious injuries.

    Most of the deaths associated with dooring tend to happen because the doored bicyclist falls into the traffic lane and gets hit by a passing vehicle. I’m pretty sure I read about a few of those last year. Would those being counted as a dooring death or are they being counted as a “hit-from-behind” death? They really count as both in my opinion.

    The one you linked to happened in an area where I sometimes ride and the death resulted from a head injury.

    • Fred says:

      The whole “door zone” myth is propogated by those who hate infrastructure. There has NEVER been evidence that the door zone is any more deadly than the travel lane. Ken Cross found doorings to be 0.6% of fatalities, for example.

      Here’s some propaganda:

      http://www.bikexprt.com/massfacil/cambridge/doorzone/pressrls.htm

      I asked him to fix this with real stats, and he argued that the door zone was dangerous, blah, blah, blah.

      Also, I noticed that those who put your data under a microscope only do so when it does not suit your agenda. I linked to positive studies in the Netherlands on infrastructure in wikipedia, and it was quickly reverted for highly obscure reasons.

      On the other hand, I wrote a lie on the door zone page, and it’s been up there for over a month because it suits the anti-infrastructure agenda.

      It’s OK to hate infrastructure, but if you have to lie to promote it, you are less than an xpert. (sic) :)

      • bikinginla says:

        Thanks for joining the conversation, Fred.

        And really nice post today: http://cyclingunbound.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/biking-bell-curve/

      • Bill wrote: “The dooring collision itself usually isn’t what causes death. It does, however often cause serious injury. ”

        Fred replied: “There has NEVER been evidence that the door zone is any more deadly than the travel lane. ”

        You two seem to be saying same thing though you act like you’re disagreeing. While a small percentage of doorings lead to injury sufficient to make it on a police report, and a percentage of those are fatalities, by and large doorings are rarely fatal. But they can still ruin a ride, a day, a week or even months.

        There is also no evidence that riding in door zones, or riding in bike lanes or far right in general, reduces one’s chance of being hit from behind. My experience of regularly riding in a conspicuous lane controlling position, with a mirror so I can observe the effect of my presence on those behind me, along with noticing how many cyclists hit from behind were riding in shoulders, bike lanes and generally far-right, has convinced me the opposite is true. Not only are you more visible and predictable “out there”, but your vantage to potential hazards up ahead and near the edge of the road is much improved.

        It’s counter-intuitive, I know, but everyone I know who has adopted the John Franklin Cyclecraft method of using the center of the traffic lane as the “primary riding position”, and only moving aside temporarily to the “secondary riding position” to allow others to pass when it’s safe and reasonable to do so, reports much better interactions with motorists in general, and other positive effects of riding in this manner, especially if they also use a mirror.

        For me, the point of pointing out the dangers of door zones is not so much to discourage door zone cycling per se, but to encourage more conspicuous lane positioning in general. If you can coax yourself to ride at least a full five feet from parked cars, you start getting accustomed to riding further out in the traffic lane, and it starts feeling more natural and normal. The more you do it, the more you experience the advantages, which are practically impossible to imagine, much less appreciate, for someone who has never experienced it.

        • Fred says:

          Um, your stories aren’t evidence Serge. You’ve all ready been proven wrong on this in other cases. Please go back and reread all my blog posts and my refutations elsewhere, where I have posted ample evidence.

          Also, I have seen that before I came around, you were solidly trounced on mailing lists. When you continued to ignore the posts and repeat yourself ad nauseum you got banned.

          Then you cried like a whiny bitch about how you were being censored. Boo-hoo.

          Also, if you read the original Cross study from the 70’s he says that “taking the lane” is a bad idea. I agree in most cases.

          VC is a stupid idea so stop coming over here to promote your religious nonsense.

  2. bikinginla says:

    Exaggerate much?

    Not at all. Throughout my riding career, I’ve been told repeatedly that the door zone is the biggest danger to cyclists. Maybe you haven’t.

    As I said repeatedly in this post, there may be other fatalities I don’t know about. If you can find proof of another dooring in SoCal last year, send it to me. After scouring news reports for over a full year, the one I linked to is the only one I’ve found.

    But after considering your criticism, I have changed that line to “one of the most dangerous places to ride.”

  3. Here’s some bike crash data, from the blog Grid Chicago, that states there were a reported 1,770 bike crashes in Illinois in 2010. Less than 8% of them were from car doorings.

    http://gridchicago.com/2011/a-very-initial-look-at-2010-bike-crash-data-for-chicago/

    The article shows a photo of a experimentally marked bike lane in San Francisco that indicates the area where a car door may open. It’s appears to be a six-foot wide bike lane. The LADOT is finding it difficult to put in even a five-foot wide bike lane on streets, so a six-foot wide lane would be even more problematic for them.

  4. Here’s a link to a report on bicycle deaths and serious injuries from the city of New York:

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/bicyclefatalities.pdf

    On page 10 of the document, under the heading traffic deaths, it states there were 207 bicycle fatal crashes from 1996-2005. Then, on page 14 it states that there were 7 fatal crashes that were caused by dooring. That is less than 4% of the bike fatal crashes in that time period.

    • NF says:

      As noted above, doorings are typically only fatal if the cyclist is thrown into overtaking traffic because of the opening door.

      Unless someone is arguing that a significant number of those who were killed in hit-from-behind crashes were riding outside of the door zone on roads with cars parked at the curb, I don’t understand what this about.

  5. Also, on page 14 of my above post on the NYC report, there was only one death reported for a vehicle hitting a bicycle in a bike lane. That’s less than a half of one percent of the total deaths reported for bicycle riders in that city from 1996-2005. Obviously, not all streets have bike lanes, so you have to take that into consideration.

  6. Here’s another link to a SF.Streetsblog article that discusses dooring:

    http://sf.streetsblog.org/2011/08/30/sfmta-tries-new-bike-lane-treatments-to-keep-cyclists-clear-of-door-zone/

    In the article it states that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency reports that the second most frequent injury collision for bicyclists in that city is dooring. Now, if you think it would be safer to put in sharrows, with the cyclist riding in front of moving vehicles, well it turns out the leading cause of injury collisions for bicyclists is unsafe speed and sharrows do not have a calming affect on traffic, while bike lanes do.

  7. [...] in addition to hosting an auto show this year, Detroit is planning a a bicycle show and swap meet. Biking in LA says that despite the City of Angels’ reputation for being not as bike friendly, cycling [...]

  8. DG says:

    “At least 25 riders were hit from behind — by far the leading cause of cycling fatalities in 2010.”

    Thanks much for breaking out the numbers. While it would have been nice to know the breakdown for non-fatal accidents (very difficult, I’m sure), I have always been more afraid of getting hit from behind than from getting doored (though I always look at the driver’s seat to see if it’s occupied as I ride alongside parked cars). In Glendale it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk, and when I’m going uphill at 10-15mph and car traffic is moving at 40-50, I ride on the sidewalk if there isn’t enough room for both car and bike in the right-most lane. The stats confirm my long-held concern.

  9. Khal Spencer says:

    I’m more concerned about being killed than injured as well, as DG says. Thanks for the essay and please continue to crunch the numbers. Given how often bicycling advocates argue about the relative merits of different crash scenerios and facility faults, we need someone punching in the numbers and evaluating these things.

  10. billdsd says:

    It’s going to vary with the city, the amount of parallel parking, the percentage of bicyclists who ride in the door zone and how well the collisions are reported.

    Sydney Australia recently reported that 40% of bike-car collisions were doorings.

    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/cyclists-at-the-mercy-of-a-me-me-culture-20111216-1oy6q.html

    A couple of years ago I saw a report from San Francisco where over a two year period, 29% of bike-car collisions were doorings.

    • Snob says:

      Add to that the fact that bicycling levels in Australia are suppressed by the requirement to wear a helmet.

      So if more people were inclined to ride, as they are in S.F. where there is no helmet requirement for adults, the percentages might be similar.

    • Fred says:

      This is a common error, conflating collisions with doorings.

      There are 3 kinds of accidents: relateively harmless collisions (skinned knee or twisted ankle), serious injuries (coma, paralysis), death.

      He posted DEATHS while Australia talks about collisions.

      Sometimes, infrastructure will seem to increase COLLISIONS while saving lives. This is actually a win.

      But anti-infrastructure will treat each skinnned knee like a death to confuse the issue.

      We want to prevent death and injury. I think that harmless collisions are good because we learn by making mistakes and we want to have forgiving roads where children can make mistakes and learn from them.

      No pain, no learning. Look at what happens to people who have no pain receptors.

      • billdsd says:

        If you slam into a door at speed, you’re going to get more than a skinned knee. I don’t consider broken bones to be minor.

        You clearly have an agenda yourself and are trying to portray dooring collisions as minor. That is misleading at best.

        • Eric B says:

          Part of this difference in opinion is based on expected riding speed. I ride a road bike, so when I’m cruising around town I’m easily going 18-20 mph without a sweat, more if downhill or there’s a tailwind. Even more if I’m actually kitted out and training. At that speed, a dooring would cause serious injury, if not a fatality. I’ve had friends have their race bikes totaled and get serious road rash from errant car doors.

          For other bicyclists riding at an expected 12 or 15 mph max, dooring is much less of a threat, while speed differential with passing vehicles is a greater problem. If I’m going up a hill, I’ll often ride closer to the parked cars to let drivers get by, even if that puts me in the door zone. At that speed, I can usually see into the car before a door would open.

          What should the design speed for bike facilities be determined by? Context…

        • Fred says:

          Yes, I do have an agenda.

          1. Find out what the safest way to ride is. To me safe==not dying first, second not geting serious injury, third, not getting into a harmless collision. If I can pick, I’ll pick a harmless collision over injury and injury over death. God, you’d think this is obvious, but I have been told that “Death is not dangerous” so some people will say anything to win a stupid argument.

          2. Prove that any place at all on the streets designed with no special consideration to cyclists is hazardous. Again, if Forester correctly looked at Cross data in 1977, we’d be having a different conversation.

          3. Try to figure out why there’s such an obsession with the door zone despite all data pointing to the contrary. I think that the agenda idea is the correct notion.

          I’ll be honest, even if infrastructure aka Copenhagen is dangerous, I’m still for it because I LOVE it when the city cares for me and my mode of transporation.

          I love all kinds of cycing and infrastructure and like most cyclists commuters and motorists who occasionally ride a bicycle, I despise riding anywhere near auto traffic because it is smelly and noisy.

          If someone else loves the aroma of air pollution, more power to you, but don’t promote this pro-dare devil agenda with crooked stats. Be honest.

          I’m waiting for someone to admit that VC is dangerous, but fun and that they feel superior to all other types of riders and thus would like to deliberately deny them a pleasant ride including putting children at higher risk because they can’t ride safely to school.

          • billdsd says:

            What data to the contrary about the door zone? I have seen multiple studies showing that dooring collisions are very common. Dooring collisions tend to result in injury. If you are trying to pretend that riding close to parallel parked cars is safe then you are delusional. I have avoided at least half a dozen doorings since I’ve been riding because I maintain a safe distance.

            I don’t consider myself a daredevil at all. Since I took the time to REALLY learn vehicular cycling and practiced the techniques properly and consistently I have gone from frequent close calls to hardly ever having close calls. I feel a whole lot safer and enjoy riding a lot more.

            You have not shown any evidence that shows that vehicular cycling is dangerous. My own experience tells me that it is the safest way to ride given the roads that we have. Good infrastructure is not cheap and is not going to show up tomorrow or next week. I need to get around in the meantime. Even if and when it does come, it will never go everywhere that I need to go. It doesn’t even go everywhere in Amsterdam or Copenhagen. Bicyclists still share the roads with cars in those cities.

            • Fred says:

              Google.com is your friend.

              Also, if you scroll back up, you’ll see some evidence to the contrary in the parent article.

              You can look at the original cross study from 1977 which is available online.

              You can look at any city’s crash data.

              You can look at actual vehicle (which VC tries to mimic) crash data and see that there were 2.5 million rear endings of automobiles.

              You might ask yourself, “What’s more dangerous, getting hit by a door or a 2 ton vehicle which is going 45 MPH or more?”

              Finally, I didn’t say “the door zone is a magical place which will allow you to avoid all collisions and injuries, amen.” This is the typical strawman.

              In reality, there is no 100% safe place on the road.

              If I present data, you will just go over it and find a comma error, then turn your nose up at the data and declare that it’s “flawed.”

              This happens each time that data is presented because VC is a religion, and religious people get very angry when you suggest that their religion is not supported by the facts.

              In fact, all these arguments finally take us to a place where there’s no useful data to teach us how to ride safely at all.

              This is a good start, but when will the VC crowd abandon their notion that their riding style is “scientific” and “safe” and that they are experts, and realize that we are all new to this field and that this original post did more for the safe riding conversation than 40 years or repeating a misreading of data in “cycling safety courses”. (sic)?

            • billdsd says:

              Wow.

              You still managed to not present a single shred of evidence to support you assertions.

              The vast overwhelming majority of rear end collisions between motor vehicles happen because one person suddenly slows abruptly while the other didn’t expect it and was usually following to close to be safe. They are usually not caused by one vehicle going slow at a consistent speed. If it did, then big rig 18 wheelers would be getting rear ended all the time.

              Relatively speaking bicyclists don’t actually get hit from behind all that often.

              It’s clear to me that you are the one with religious fervor and no facts.

  11. billdsd says:

    I don’t want to be killed or injured.

  12. Terry Reynolds says:

    This analysis is completely accurate in what it has stated, but it may lead an uninformed reader to draw poor conclusions. The likelihood of being hit from behind drawn from numerous studies is around 0.1%. The likelihood of being doored is much, much higher. I never worry about being hit from behind because it is so unlikely. I worry about being doored because I may not die, but I will likely be severely injured.

    Point in case: I have many friends who had broken arms or other injuries following dooring. I have no friends who have died being hit from behind.

    I worry about what I can actually control, which is riding out of the door zone.

    • Fred says:

      Please post data so we can analyze it. I have never seen such low COLLISION data from rear ending. Deaths are really high from this accident as well.

      Furthermore, there are 2.5 million rear endings of motor vehicles in the US out of a total of 6 million. These are COLLISIONS not deaths.

      I find it tough to believe that in the center of a lane, I am more likely to be seen and avoided than a car which is why I ride in the door zone when I feel I need to while taking the lane when I feel safe to do so.

      The more people who ride in the center lane, the more rear endings and deaths until we reach a critical mass of riders. We’ll probably never get that way by teaching riders to ride so dangerously because they will all die off. :(

  13. Because cyclists are not the dominant mode, per capita normalization does not correlate well with actual exposure. The oft quoted average of 1% mode share at the federal or state level, can vary considerably from county to county and city to city, so cycling in counties like Riverside can be dramatically lower per capita than more urbanized counties like LA, or OC. So per capita comparisons are not very perceptive in establishing relative risks.
    In other words, exposure is difficult to measure because we do not have a way of directly measuring varying city/county/state exposure data.

    The other problem is that just looking at fatalities is not a suitable proxy for assessing all serious and even less serious injuries, and the motorist/bicyclist behaviors that cause them, because police departments and the CHP do not always report bicycling crashes, especially if they do not involve a motor vehicle, or there is not a fatal or severe enough injury that hospitalization is required. And even when they do, they often don’t record enough information about the positions of the bicyclist and motorist to determine crash causes.

    Without better data, many of the causes are not well identified. For example, many hit from behind fatalities have been motorists drifting to the right while distracted and hitting cyclists at the road edge, in shoulders, or even bike lanes, so without knowing the lateral positions well enough, it’s not clear what all the causes would have been in these crashes.

    Having reviewed the world wide crash safety literature, many of the non-linear time series relationships are not well known outside academicians in the field, and this has lead to a lot of confusion in interpreting trends for bicycling crashes. I’m glad the scant available data is getting attention. Unfortunately the CHP and local PDs are not as interested in broadening their crash reporting as we would like.

    • DG says:

      “Without better data, many of the causes are not well identified. For example, many hit from behind fatalities have been motorists drifting to the right while distracted and hitting cyclists at the road edge, in shoulders, or even bike lanes, so without knowing the lateral positions well enough, it’s not clear what all the causes would have been in these crashes.”

      How predictable — Gutierrez/CABO trying to cast doubt on the improved safety of bike lanes.

      As I mentioned, there are nuances to consider, but the basic, uncomplicated data provided by bikinginla is that if you want to avoid getting killed, be wary of your 6 o’clock.

      • bikinginla says:

        In fairness to Dan, he has a point. Some of those hit-from-behind collisions did occur in bike lanes, such as Danae Miller running down Amine Britel in Newport Beach.

        Unfortunately, the limited data we have to work with doesn’t allow clear conclusions, but it does open some very interesting questions.

        • DG says:

          Without the data, we only have speculation, and it defies common sense to speculate that distracted drivers are MORE likely to hit bicyclists in bike lanes than when they are riding in traffic.

          Do riders get killed in bike lanes? Yes, but what percentage compared to riding in traffic?

          Give me “segregated infrastructure” every time.

    • roberthurst says:

      I wonder what evidence Dan Gutierrez has which tells him that “many” hit-from-behind fatalities involve a motorist “drifting” onto the shoulder or bike lane. I’m not aware of any evidence showing this phenomenon is responsible for a significant portion of hit-from-behind fatalities. Sounds like wishful thinking to me.

      • billdsd says:

        We had one in Sorrento Valley last week, though the driver then went across the bike lane and into a tree.

        I specifically remember another one in Carlsbad or Oceanside last year on the 101. In fact, I’ve read about quite a few of them over the years. I don’t have numbers but I wouldn’t be reading about them if they weren’t happening.

        • roberthurst says:

          And I recall more than one cyclist getting killed by drivers who drifted all the way into the OPPOSITE shoulder.

          It happens. Drift happens. But does that account for a significant percentage of hit-from-behind fatalities? (Of which, there aren’t very many in the first place in the grand scheme of things, but which cause far more bicyclist fatalities than any other single collision type.)

          I guarantee for every drift-type hit from behind anecdote that can be recalled here, I can provide several non-drift anecdotes.

          I would like to see some kind of data, because I can give you anecdotes for anything you want. The only data I’ve seen with the audacity to sort by bicyclist position at time of collision (travel lane vs. shoulder) shows that “drift” type hits-from-behind are very rare compared to garden-variety in-the-travel-lane hit-from-behind. (NC car-bike crash data tool, with thousands of collisions over many years.) I would be extremely surprised if that weren’t the case, for the simple reason that a drift type collision requires two things to happen — the drift and the failure to notice the cyclist. The in-the-lane collision only requires failure to notice the cyclist, who is already in the path of the vehicle. I concede that it is easier to notice a cyclist right in front of you than off to the side; cyclists who are right in front of drivers’ noses still go unnoticed with alarming frequency, however, a reality evident in many accident types.

          • Eric B says:

            Depending on how the data is classified, drift-type accidents may be recorded as “sideswipes” rather than as rear-end collisions. California’s SWITRS database makes this distinction. It is not clear whether traffic investigators are trained to know the difference when it comes to bicycle-vehicle collisions. In both cases, the bicyclist is hit from behind by a passing vehicle.

            • roberthurst says:

              Perhaps. Large datasets show that “sideswipe” collisions occur far less frequently than solid hits-from behind of any type (NC, WA), which also challenges many strongly held beliefs. And of course the sideswipes are far less damaging than solid-hits-from-behind, almost never causing fatality.

      • Eric B says:

        Motorists leaving their lanes for whatever reason (distraction, drinking, excessive speed, generally poor car handling) is a regular occurrence and likely responsible for more than 50% of hit-from-behinds, based on the limited data I’ve seen for my interest area, which has no bike facilities and an inconsistent shoulder.

        • roberthurst says:

          Could you be more specific about this data that you’ve seen?

          “…likely responsible for more than 50% of hit-from-behinds…” Based on what?

          • Eric B says:

            I look at SWITRS data for Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, which is admittedly a somewhat unique riding environment with different demographics of bicyclists than might be found in more urban areas. Without having the numbers at my finger tips, it’d be hard for me to give you a more detailed answer.

    • Eric B says:

      Dan, thanks for raising all the relevant points about these statistics. I’m glad that Ted sees them for what they are: an interesting basis for further research and discussion rather than a conclusive statement about the safest riding style or best facility type for a given context.

    • Khal Spencer says:

      Dan raises an interesting question. Do we know that hit from behind crashes are exclusively outside bike lanes? My hypothesis is that hit from behind crashes may be increasing as driver distractive devices increase. In that case, I doubt a line of paint in the road will provide protection and that drifting crashes may well be increasing. But I’ve not done the research to test that.

      Like Dan, I am glad the data are getting some attention. We really need to get beyond sniping at each other and start some meaningful digestion and interpretation of observations. Thanks.

      • bikinginla says:

        I noted in the comments above that at least some of the hit-from-behind collisions occurred in bike lanes. In addition, at least one involved a cyclist who was hit from behind while he was riding on the sidewalk. Another rider was hit from behind while riding in the street — by a driver who lost control and drove onto the sidewalk before coming back on the street to hit him.

        However, from what I can gather, most appear to be your garden variety run down from behind crash.

    • Fred says:

      Yes, there is exposure data, too.

      Get your microscope data.

      For extra credit, find the pro-VC lie I told which was never put under such scrutiny:

      “Bicycle fatalities have held within the same range over the last decade, despite bike ridership quadrupling during that time period.”

      http://www.nyc.gov/portal/site/nycgov/menuitem.c0935b9a57bb4ef3daf2f1c701c789a0/index.jsp?pageID=mayor_press_release&catID=1194&doc_name=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nyc.gov%2Fhtml%2Fom%2Fhtml%2F2011b%2Fpr460-11.html&cc=unused1978&rc=1194&ndi=1

      For the NYC haters out there:

      “In 2010, there were zero fatal bicycle crashes in Portland.”

      http://bikeportland.org/2011/01/26/portland-had-zero-bike-fatalities-in-2010-again-46743

      So with facilities, ridersship went up and fatalities went down. This is a “coorelation” that can not be hand waved away.

      Instead of continuing to try to bullshit the more and more informedf cycling community why not meet with people in Portland or NYC to try to find out what they did and why it was successful?

      Oh, right, VC is a religion. I can’t wait to see it apply for non-tax status. :)

  14. roberthurst says:

    Trying to parse bicycle accident stats without considering the ages of the bicyclists leads to massive distortion and fundamental confusion.

    In very simple terms, there are two separate bicycling populations and they experience fundamentally different types of collisions for fundamentally different reasons. Kids and adults. Lumping all the stats into one big glob will leave you unable to understand the pattern for either group.

    Robert H.

    • bikinginla says:

      After going back through my records, I can tell you that six of the fatalities involved riders 12 or under; another five were between 15 and 17.

      That leaves 60 riders who were 18 or older.

  15. roberthurst says:

    Someone who rides in the door zone consistently is very likely to get doored, and will likely suffer injury from it, unless they ride very very slow. However, doorings only rarely result in fatalities unless there is a secondary collision with a passing vehicle. (This happens with disturbing frequency in NYC.)

    My advice: don’t ride in the door zone. I find that I can avoid the DZ and still be pretty cooperative with passing drivers. On many streets there is either no DZ (no side parking) or a bit of extra space on the right which allows the bicyclist to avoid the DZ but still lets motorists pass with reasonable ease. Find and use those streets when possible.

  16. In my experience: intelligent people will not ride in the door zone; slow cyclists will not take the lane if cars are going fast. The result: slow, intelligent people will not ride. So it doesn’t matter whether it’s sharrows + lower speed limits or infrastructure. Something has to be added to every street.

  17. Eric B says:

    I want to emphasize a point that others have alluded to: analyzing fatalities to the exclusion of injury (or even better, all) collisions is only part of the story. The datasets I’ve seen frequently show many collisions, but fewer fatalities, in hectic urban environments where issues like doorings and intersection conflicts are likely. Fatalities are more frequent in high-speed environments with less or controlled cross traffic. These areas often have fewer overall collisions (and less bicycling), but when something goes wrong it tends to be fatal.

    This doesn’t lessen the value of Ted’s analysis, but it definitely is something to factor into facility design and education programs. I could go on like a broken record about context-sensitive solutions. Suffice it to say, context is important for engineering decisions, always. Broad statements about what this or that dataset “proves” is not appropriate given the limited information we have available.

  18. [...] Biking in LA blog looks at the fatality numbers Sing it to the tune of that Missing Persons’ song. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Leave a Comment Leave a Comment so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI [...]

  19. The Trickster says:

    Department of corrections rearing its head again – your population figure for LA County (29mil) sounded rather high, so I went and double checked it – I’m getting only 9mil off the Wiki page.

    If I’m wrong, thats cool, but just thought I’d throw that out there :)

    Death per pop figure appears to be right though, think you just accidentally hit a 2 when you posted the figures :)

  20. There is no doubt that dooring of bicyclists does occur from parked car occupents and reducing them without increasing the incidents of collision injuries elsewhere would be an improvement. A problem is that there usually is no requirement for cities to put in bike lanes. So, raising the minimum width requirement will likely reduce the odds of having a bike lane installed by usually having to take more space away from motorized vehicles. Cities will simply do nothing or substitute perhaps sharrows instead, which doesn’t require reallocation of space. Having the bicyclist ride in front of traffic mixes them in with much larger massed vehicles that can be moving at a much greater speed, and this subjects them to the real possibility of serious injury or death from unintentional human error on the part of drivers.

    Seattle is a good example of a city liberally applying sharrows on busy streets instead of bike lanes and now Los Angeles is starting to do the same. One of the restrictions for sharrows placement was that there had to be 24 hour street parking. The parking requirement has been dropped in this state and I would expect Los Angeles to increase the number of streets that have sharrows, instead of putting in the much more expensive and potentially politically contentious bike lanes.

    If it was a rule or set within a cities plans that at the minimum a unprotected bike lane must be installed when volume or speed of traffic reaches a certain level on a street, then a higher minimum bike lane width requirement would be advantageous. It’s common for cities to require sidewalk installation for building constructions, so why not infrastructure requirements for the vulnerable bicyclist?

    There should also be a requirement that a barrier and perhaps a buffer be required for bicycling infrastructure for some busy streets. But, that brings up some other problems such as cost and the fact that bicycling modal share is at about 1% in the U.S. The 75%, or more, of transportation which is motorized would tend to increasingly object as more space or money is taken away from their transportation choice and given to a small modal share that they do not use.

  21. IT says:

    There are many ways of crashing that might be called “hit from behind”. But how many of these involved a car hitting a cyclist that was going clearly in the middle of the lane, vehicular-style? And how many involved hitting, while trying to pass, a cyclist that was riding as far to the right as practicable? And how many involved hitting an “invisible” cyclist while the motorist was turning? (Even right hooks sometimes get classified as “getting hit from behind”, depending on which part of the motor vehicle hits the cyclist.)

    I don’t know the answers to these questions, but perhaps you can look at your data with that in mind. But anecdotally, from reading maybe one or two dozen recent news reports of cycling fatalities in my city, is that I don’t recall even one case of a cyclist getting hit from behind while riding in the middle of the lane. All the crashes I remember involved some sort of turning or back-up or passing maneuver where the motorist didn’t see the cyclist (or the cyclist “falling into traffic” due to dooring or pothole.)

    • bikinginla says:

      Unfortunately, lane positioning is seldom mentioned in press or police reports. Usually the only time either mentions it is when the cyclist is cited — or at least blamed — for riding too far from the curb.

      And I think we all know that many, if not most, police officers don’t have a clue about what proper lane position actually means.

    • Fred says:

      Real world data is always messy. For example, if I am going to turn left and I get hit from behind, am 1. hit from behind, left hooked, or hit in an intersection?

      The point I am making is that it’s _impossible_ to teach someone to ride safely (competently) (sic) if the streets have no thought about cyclists from the beginning.

      Even putting bike lanes next to a four lane road or a sharrow is a hack at best.

      The point is that facilities are here to mitigate problems that cyclists have. If we had no roads in the first place, we could cut cross country trails and ride those. If we had only to build roads for bikes, the roads could be one lane wide an accomodate pedestrians and cyclists at a fraction of the cost of our road system now.

      The reason that we spend so much on roads is because we all like luxuary. Why not share the luxuary with the cyclists by spending dedicated money on them?

      Cars are an awesome luxuary, and they should be priced so that the “market” reflects their true cost. Then people can make more responsible choices in response to market signals.

      Right now VC orgs support car culture which actually gives a discount to motorists at everyone’s expense and makes things suck more for everyone even motorists.

      Or am I the only one who likes luxuary like they have in Europe?

      • bikinginla says:

        I can answer your first question. Based on the criteria I used for this, I would categorize that as both hit-from-behind and as an intersection collision if you actually made it to the intersection; if not, I’d call it a hit-from-behind if you were run over as you were making your way across traffic to the left turn lane.

        As for the rare — in this country — left hook, that would only apply if you were going straight and the driver turned left across your path.

  22. Jim Lyle says:

    Thank you, Ted, for taking the time to compile the data.

    Bob Mionske’s excellent book, Bicycling and the Law, has a detailed chapter on bicycling accidents. From the Highway Safety Research Center, 45% of bicycle accidents occur in an intersection, 25% where the cyclists is entering a roadway, 14% with the cyclist traveling with traffic, and 8% “salmon” riding.

    Included in the 14% of bicycle accidents, where the cyclist is traveling with traffic, 1.4% involve striking a parked car, half of which are doorings.

    In a small study done at the U of Michigan, eleven cyclists were killed out of seventeen doorings. Nine of the deceased were run over by another vehicle passing! Doorings are serious at any speed.

    RSRO (ride safely, ride often),
    Jim

  23. Mark Elliot says:

    I think the take away from Ted’s tally (I hesitate to use the term ‘analysis’ because of his cautions about incomplete data) is that it’s valuable to have a contextual look at fatal collisions in addition to the aggregate data.
    As suggested already, fatality data may not be representative of injury collisions. SWITRS data from 2005-2009 shows a diverging trend: injury collisions are up 15% in the period while fatality collisions declined 17%. Injury collisions will be even less representative if those trends continue. Yet having just talked to a cyclist put in the hospital for a month from a rear-ender, there’s not an insignificant chance of getting rear-ended, even if it’s the worst-case scenario. While fatalities may not contextually-representative of all collisions, the data do suggest where we need to focus because it’s loss-of-life.
    That said, when I ride, I’m more conscious of situations that can lead to injury (e.g., dooring) than which might lead to death.

  24. BC says:

    “At least eight were hit while riding on or leaving a sidewalk.”

    “Sidewalks remain dangerous places for cyclists, particularly where they intersect with streets and driveways.”

    Not true. In many areas, the majority of riders ride on the sidewalks. 8 fatalities out of 71 does not indicate that sidewalk riding is more dangerous than riding on the street. In areas that have no blind driveways, few pedestrians, and wide sidewalks, sidewalk riding could be significantly more safe than street riding.

    This study – http://www.bicyclinglife.com/Library/riskfactors.htm – by BY ALAN WACHTEL and DIANA LEWISTON, actually shows sidewalk riding as slightly safer than street riding, when the sidewalk rider is going the same direction as street traffic, but less safe when the sidewalk rider is against traffic. But, again, all of that would depend on context. Don’t generalize.

    Please don’t spread bad, incorrect info about sidewalk riding. It is the only way some people can currently ride, and the city of LA is currently looking into banning it.

    The best situation would be wide cycle tracks and sidewalks, but until certain knuckleheads get out of the way, this is what we’ve got.

    • Mark Elliot says:

      I see no reason to quibble. Because we can’t draw hard conclusions from the available data presented here, we can’t say conclusively that sidewalks aren’t dangerous places to ride, just as we can’t support conclusively that they are. But it leaves open opportunity for observations.

      Setting aside the phrase, “leaving a sidewalk,” which injects some ambiguity as the cyclist could be imprudently entering a vehicular right of way, I do agree with Ted: his findings here suggest to me that sidewalk riding is hazardous overall. I can validate that for myself anecdotally: in my city I see sidewalk cyclists crossing potential conflict points like driveways and streets (i.e., in crosswalks) blithely every day. The prevalence of those potential conflict points in the urban environment surely elevates the hazard.

      For example, driveways in urban areas are more likely to be blind with build-out to the sidewalk in our commercial zones. Streets are more congested (with both drivers and cyclists). That suggests to me reducing opportunities for conflict by way of mode separation (as you suggest), which by definition would preclude sidewalk riding. In rural areas, perhaps that’s not necessary.

      Even if we identify areas where potential conflict points are less prevalent, we’re not taking into account potentially higher vehicular speeds and drivers who may be less-likely to expect a cyclist in the ped ROW. I imagine that there is data that can be marshaled to support it, but I haven’t looked at it myself, so it’s my conjecture.

      Even without hard data on the prevalence of sidewalk riding (and it’s relatively high in my city), the data that we do have argues for our attention. Ted’s data shows sidewalk riding was a factor in fully 10% of cyclist deaths in SoCal. SWITRS data for 2005-2009 on average shows 86 deaths per yr in the pedestrian right of way (statewide, regardless of mode). Seems like cyclists might comprise a too-high a fraction of them?

      We’ve only talked about deaths (because they’re noticed). SWITRS shows on average a ratio of fifty injuries for every pedestrian ROW death. Presumably finding an effective way to address this problem would scale the benefit WAY up in terms of reduced injuries.

      BTW, I don’t hear Ted calling for a blanket ban but instead highlighting the particular peril in urbanized areas, from where he sits. But places are different, and perhaps that calls for context-sensitive laws re: sidewalk riding, as the state leaves it to the locality to establish.

      One thing is for sure: we need better data!

      • BC says:

        The reason to “quibble” (thanks) is that the currently accepted ‘truth’ by planners and engineers is “sidewalk riding is always bad”, instead of “sidewalk riding is probably bad in these particular contexts, and it is probably good in these other contexts”.

        Planners/engineers act upon their accepted truths by designing without taking the large numbers of sidewalk riders into account, and by outlawing any bikeway solutions involving sidewalk riding, or anything perceived to be sidewalk riding. This includes the safest infrastructure in the world, Dutch style cycle tracks. Take a look at this quote from the 1994 website/study that I linked to:

        “Table 5 demonstrates that sidewalks or paths adjacent to a roadway are usually not, as non-cyclists expect, safer than the road, but much less safe. This conclusion is already well estab­lished in existing standards for bikeway design, although in our experience it is not widely known or observed. Two principal standards, the 1981 AASHTO Guide for Development of New Bicycle Facilities7 and the California Highway Design Manual’s chapter on “Bikeway Planning and Design”8, find that the designated use of sidewalks as bikeways is “unsatisfactory.” The 1981 AASHTO Guide and the 1983 version of the California Manual9 offer an extensive list of reasons for this recommen­dation, including wrong-way travel and blind conflicts at inter­sections and driveways. (Palo Alto’s sidewalk bicycle paths were established before these design criteria were adopted.) The California Manual also finds that “bike paths immediately adjacent to streets and highways are not recom­mended,” and the 1983 version enumerates many of the same reasons that apply to side­walks. The revised 1991 AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities10 incorpo­rates language on paths nearly identical to that of the 1983 California Manual.”

        “bike paths immediately adjacent to streets” is what cycle tracks are. This exclusion of an entire range of potential bikeway solutions in all contexts was a result of the same autistic advocacy of the Vehicular Cycling/ Forrester/ CABO ‘consultants’ that you are arguing with today. The main difference is that back then, there was no clear and accessible example of a solution that does work, as there is today in Europe and elsewhere.

        I ride on a (pre-1981?) sidewalk bike path for part of my bike commute, and it’s the nicest and safest part of the commute. It’s as wide as any ‘multiple use trail’, there are no blind driveways, I always slow down for walkers, and I try to ride with traffic (but not always). Some sections are slower than when I take the lane, but some are faster, depending on traffic and signal timing. If I could ride on this ‘sidewalk’ the entire trip, I would ride more.

    • Mark Elliot says:

      I should add that the SWITRS data identifies ‘primary’ collision factor in those deaths as ‘pedestrian right-of-way,’ which is distinguished from deaths with a primary collision factor of ‘pedestrian violation’ (the latter running about 4x the former). What I don’t yet know if cyclists on the sidewalk is counted as a ‘ped violation’ death as primary cause. I’ll check it.

      • Mark Elliot says:

        Looking further, SWITRS packaged data for 05-09 includes two summary charts: Fatal and Injury Bicycle Collisions by Month and Bicyclists Killed and Injured by Age. Valuable, yes, but the off-the-shelf summary datasets don’t include the all-important Bicycle Collision, i.e., “whether the collision involved a bicycle.” That would help better examine the data for factors like ‘Automobile Right of Way’ or ‘Pedestrian Right of Way.’ I have a query to a cop to see what an office might mark ‘Pedestrian Violation': does that categorically exclude cyclists then? And what about a crosswalk? Ped or Auto ROW? Stay tuned.

    • bikinginla says:

      Mortiz found a nearly 25 times greater risk factor for sidewalk riders compared to riders on streets with no cycling infrastructure when studying “avid” cyclists, and over 5 times higher for average commuters.

      Are those studies more accurate than the one you cite? I have no idea. However, they do support my own personal experience gained over 30 years of riding.

      In urban areas, sight lines along sidewalks are severely restricted due to the closeness of buildings to the sidewalk, while alleyways and garage openings present frequent risk opportunities for cyclists. Factor in pedestrians and other obstacles, and the relative risk should be apparent.

      In suburban areas, sidewalks may be set back in a little further, masking riders behind trees and other greenery, while exposing sidewalk riders to multiple driveways.

      In either case, motorists aren’t looking for anything moving faster than a pedestrian pace on the sidewalk or darting into the crosswalk or intersection, whether they are driving on the street or exiting driveways or garages. Hell, it’s hard enough to get drivers to look for pedestrians in crosswalks; I have enough close calls just walking my dog, let alone riding in the same space.

      Just off the top of my head, I can think of at least three of those eight sidewalk fatalities that occurred when the rider rode into the street off the sidewalk.

      That’s not to say I never ride sidewalks; sometimes it’s the safest route around a dangerous street or intersection. But my advice to riders is that you are usually better off riding in the street than on the sidewalk. Use them when you need to, but only when you need to, and only as long as you need to. Which, oddly, is exactly the same advice I give for taking the lane.

      As for the City of Los Angeles, the City Council asked the City Attorney and LAPD to study sidewalk riding and offer their suggestions. At last report, they are considering recommendations to slow riders down, and require more caution around intersections, driveways and pedestrians.

      There are no current plans to ban sidewalk riding in Los Angeles, nor would I support such a ban.

      • billdsd says:

        I have had plenty of close calls with cars while WALKING on the sidewalk. Driveways can get iffy. Crossing at crosswalks and intersections can also get iffy. Try using a crosswalk that crosses a freeway ramp some time. No light. No stop sign. Most drivers will not stop for a pedestrian there even though it is required by law. At a standard intersection with lights, more often than not, right turning drivers will go without looking for pedestrians at the corner trying to cross.

        Trying to do the same thing at 3-10 times the speed of pedestrians makes it a whole lot worse. Riding safely on the sidewalk tends to require going very slowly.

      • Mark Elliot says:

        We have a sidewalk riding ban here in Beverly Hills (of course), and it’s not uncommon when suggesting bike infrastructure to officials to hear, in reply, “What about mandating helmets?” That’s how we roll.
        Safety aside, one problem with the kind of ban that we have is that it applies to commercial districts, and not many riders would know that means multifamily zones too (as they are ‘commercial’). An other problem of course is that if it’s on the books but not enforced, we leave discretion wide open to the officer, or the department. The latter may choose one day to enforce.

      • BC says:

        “Are those studies more accurate than the one you cite? I have no idea.”

        You cite the two Moritz analysis, which were surveys (nearly 100 questions) of League of American Wheelmen members; and surveys of respondents in mid-1990s email lists, bike magazines, and bike clubs, based on respondents personal experiences of the previous year. It included every collision/accident that cost over $50, no fatalities.

        I cite an analysis of every police reported bike collision/accident in the City of Palo Alto over 4 years; one fatality.

        Both of these are interesting and helpful, but neither is useful for saying if sidewalk riding per se, or cycle track riding, is good or bad; and both were completed at a time when Forrester/CABO/CV was the first and last word in bicycling academia.

      • BC says:

        Thank you for clarifying the LA City actions. Given that many of the cities in LA County and the rest of SoCal do outlaw sidewalk riding, or outlaw it in large chunks of their cities, I think it does make sense to be careful.

      • BC says:

        @bikininla says: “Mortiz found a nearly 25 times greater risk factor for sidewalk riders compared to riders on streets with no cycling infrastructure when studying “avid” cyclists, and over 5 times higher for average commuters.”

        Actually the first Moritz study has essentially zero ‘sidewalk riders’ – it reports .3% (3 tenths of one percent) of total distance ridden as ‘other’, which is clarified as “mostly sidewalk”, by League of Wheelmen members in the mid 1990s, who would probably all be Vehicular Cyclists, and would all have in mind, if not active advocates of, the then dominant VC/Forrester/CABO dogma, and would have been reluctant to ride on any sidewalk, and loathe to admit it if they did.

        There is no information given in the 2nd Moritz study of what percentage of distance ridden, so I would expect a similar almost zero number.

        Maybe the best interpretation is that if Vehicular Cylcists try to ride on sidewalks in the manner of a Vehicular Cyclist, then they can expect a higher than usual collision/ accident rates.

        Or that when a Vehicular Cyclist is forced to ride on a sidewalk, it’s probably because of some unknown bad conditions causing higher than usual collision/ accident rates.

      • BC says:

        @bikininla says: “Mortiz found a nearly 25 times greater risk factor for sidewalk riders compared to riders on streets with no cycling infrastructure when studying “avid” cyclists, and over 5 times higher for average commuters.”

        Actually the first Moritz study has essentially zero ‘sidewalk riders’ – it reports .3% (3 tenths of one percent) of total distance ridden as ‘other’, which is clarified as “mostly sidewalk”, by League of Wheelmen members in the mid 1990s, who would probably all be Vehicular Cyclists, and would all have in mind, if not active advocates of, the then dominant VC/Forrester/CABO dogma, and would have been reluctant to ride on any sidewalk, and loathe to admit it if they did.

        There is no information given in the 2nd Moritz study of what percentage of distance ridden, so I would expect a similar almost zero number.

        Maybe the best interpretation is that if Vehicular Cycists try to ride on sidewalks in the manner of a Vehicular Cyclist, then they can expect a higher than usual collision/accident rates.

        Or that when a Vehicular Cyclist is forced to ride on a sidewalk, it’s probably because of some unknown bad conditions causing higher than usual collision/ accident rates.

    • Fred says:

      OK, I suck at stats. In the text it says: “Table 5 demonstrates that sidewalks or paths adjacent to a roadway are usually not, as non-cyclists expect, safer than the road, but much less safe.”

      I confused.

      If you look in table 5, there is no break out of cycling paths at all. How can we have text talking about data in a table that doesn’t exist?

      Note that my vision is bad, and I’m bad at math so maybe this is the reason it reads this way.

      I have seen the 2003 Orlando study similarly lump sidewalk (illegal) and bike path (legal) accidents together in some presentations and not in others.

      So when VC people talk about cycle tracks being dangerous are they really looking at sidewalk riding which nobody recommends then cross applying that data to non-existant facilities (in the US) which are specifically engineered with cyclist safety in mind?

      No, it can’t be true. :)

      • BC says:

        The authors of the study are both high priests of the Vehicular Cycling group. The needed to add a 9 paragraph addendum to explain away as a “Paradox of Interpretation” their own finding that sidewalks can be safer than roadways.

        This excerpt may also partially explain your confusion:
        “Portions of Middlefield and most of Embar­cadero are too narrow to accommodate bicycle lanes; accordingly, the city has designated side­walks in these places as bicycle paths. (Bicycle lanes are portions of the roadway designated for the use of bicycles. Bicycle paths are physically separated rights of way for the exclusive use of bicycles and pedestrians.) The paths are signed “Bicycles May Use Sidewalk,” and their use is optional. In accordance with a local ordinance these sidewalks are further signed for one-way bicycle travel, although this prohibition is often ignored and rarely enforced.”

  25. Glad to see the generally civil discussion on the data that Ted has painstakingly compiled and analyzed. I think the possible problem with focusing on deaths to form a hypothesis on safety is that injuries probably outnumber deaths by one or two orders of magnitude. I don’t know a good source of data to confirm my suggestion and as a number of you have pointed out above, any compilation of bicycle accident statistics is dubious for a number of reasons. However, I believe my suggestion of injury accidents far outnumbering fatal accidents involving cyclists and motor vehicles is much closer to being true than false.

    My hypothesis is that the large percentage of people surveyed who are “interested but concerned” regarding their use of a bicycle for exercise or transportation will only be “tipped” towards cycling when we can significantly reduce the probability all kinds of accidents. We can’t focus on one class of accident (and I often use the word accident loosely) over another.

    Of course, I want to see zero fatalities, but I also want to see zero injuries and the two are obviously intertwined in an optimum cycling infrastructure. Progress on one front will yield benefits on the other. So while “dooring” may not cause deaths it certainly causes significant injuries and the countermeasures that prevent dooring may also reduce fatalities other than those directly attributable to dooring.

    Shifting my discussion slightly, I have a question for all of you regarding cyclists who get struck from behind. How many of those “accidents” we due to drivers who intentionally thought, “I am going to run over that cyclist to get her / him out of my way.”

    Time for my personal disclaimer: most of my cycling for the past 38 years (and a few hundred thousand miles of training and commuting) has been vehicular cycling. Until about two years ago I’d never heard of that term, but I’ve since learned that is how I generally ride. (Side disclaimer: how do I ride when I ride with casual or beginning riders? I use separated bicycle facilities as much as possible but as little as practicable on sidewalks.)

    If the vast majority of drivers do not intentionally run over cyclists, then what is the root cause of these accidents? I think it is worth the effort and time to do that kind of analysis and then determine which countermeasures minimize the possibility of the root cause or causes (the very significant few causes) of hit from behind accidents that result in death or injury. (Let’s not worry about accidents that don’t result in significant injury, such as abrasions and contusions.)

    I don’t pretend to have an answer right now, though I could suggest a few based on my experience, observations, and knowledge, but I would like to work with some of you to analyze the situation as best as we can with the information that we have to determine what is the root cause of these accidents and what countermeasures can best improve the situation with our available resources (time, money, political will, etc).

    Thanks for reading this comment.

    • Mark Elliot says:

      >How many of those “accidents” we due to drivers who intentionally thought, “I am going to run over that cyclist to get her / him out of my way.”

      I presume very few of them. That’s pretty black-and-white. Motivation instead is shaded, as in, “I can squeeze by this guy.” Seems to be the reasoning when motorists try to pass even if you’re 1/3 of the way into the lane in the right tire tread (in a non-standard lane). Recently a motorist’s front bumper nudged close to my bottom bracket on Wilshire as I was traveling more-or-less with traffic at about 25 mph (eastbound) in Beverly Hills.

      Re: the data on deaths:injuries, the SWITRS seems to make only 2009 comprehensive data available to date. (Nowhere on that site does it say so, though.) Can’t find any release more recent, though I did see reference to November release for 2010.

      The 2009 data shows a ratio of deaths:injuries in bike ‘type of vehicle’ of 106 to 11,994, with 889 of that twelve thousand total reported injuries falling into the ‘serious’ category. Of all injuries, 6,250 were classified as ‘visible.’ So make with that what you will, but the proportion of injured to dead is large indeed. And keep in mind that these are only reported injuries.

      • bikinginla says:

        I have to agree with Mark.

        What I’ve heard and read from motorists would suggest that it is possible that some cyclists may have been targeted. While I’ve bailed out of the path of drivers who appeared to deliberately aim at me more than once over the years, I think most drivers who threaten to hit cyclists are just talking trash.

        However, I would say that the overwhelming hit-from-behinds stem from drivers trying to squeeze past without enough room — thanks Governor Brown! — or distracted drivers who see their victims too late, if at all.

        Personally, that’s my biggest fear in taking the lane — that the driver behind me is looking at anything other than the roadway ahead of them.

  26. Anonymous says:

    This analysis would be more relevant if it considered collision reports from FARS or SWITRS, rather than the author’s collection of anecdotes and press reports.

    • bikinginla says:

      If you want to do that study, do it. Or better yet, pay me to do this full time and I’ll be more than happy to devote my life to a study of bicycle collision data.

      I never claimed that this is an all-inclusive study, or that additional data wouldn’t be helpful. In fact, if you have actually read this post, you would know that I noted more than once that this does not include accident data.

      However, to the best of my knowledge, no one else is tracking Southern California bicycling fatalities on a real-time basis. FARS data, which I use on a frequent basis, has a built-in two-year lag time. SWITRS, which I have not worked with as much, has a seven month delay.

      Maybe you want to wait until July — or 2014 — to look at last year’s numbers, but I didn’t.

      If you think you can do a better job, feel free.

  27. [...] Analyzing SoCal Bike Deaths, Few in Door Zone (Biking in LA) [...]

  28. Marcotico says:

    Nitpicky comment. The SCAG region is actually six counties, San Diego is its own MPO.

    Otherwise, thank you very much Ted, for your ongoing work.

  29. John L. says:

    I’d like to thank you, Ted, for tracking these reports and compiling this data. Keep up the good work. Count me as one experienced cyclist who is convinced that we need more bike lanes and cycle tracks now . . . no, yesterday.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks John and Marcotico, I really appreciate the kind words.

      Marcotico, you’re right about San Diego belonging to SANDAG. On the other hand, SoCal stats that don’t include San Diego just seems so wrong.

      And John, I couldn’t agree more on your timing for bike lanes and cycle tracks.

  30. JP says:

    Perhaps I missed it, but where’s the data on lane positioning?

    Intuitively, motorists are more likely to run into something they don’t see. The only time I’ve been rear-ended by a car, I was in a door zone bike lane, she was moving across it to get to a parking lot, and apologized that she simply hadn’t seen me next to the parked cars. By your analysis, this would be an indication I was too aggressive in taking the bike lane rather than the sidewalk?

  31. [...] post has been ‘in the making’ for a couple weeks now. After seeing Biking In LA and Eastsider publish similar style posts I decided to push myself and finally get this [...]

  32. I’m impressed with your effort, here! I think I saw that nationally, rear end and head on make up 70% of cyclist deaths

    WRT doorings, while deaths are occasional, I suspect injuries and broken bikes are fairly common. I also wonder how many rear end collisions occur after the cyclist swerved to avoid a suddenly thrust open door.

  33. [...] OK, before I post this, you should see this amazing data analysis. [...]

  34. Rob Yula says:

    Hi folks.
    I read the story and statistics regarding cycling fatalities.
    I believe the stats don’t tell the whole story.
    There are unanswered questions.
    In the cases where the cyclists were hit from behind, in what position were they in on the road?
    How fast was the traffic on that road?
    Were they one lane, two lane roads?
    How many were at night?
    If at night, were they using rear lights, and, if so, how many, what brand, model?
    All of these factors can contribute or decrease potential rear end bicycle hits.
    If someone has any access to this info sharing it would be helpful.
    Thanks.

  35. emendia says:

    Gee. I am a slow poke that normally rides on small side streets 15mph or slower, and all of the above just makes me feel safer for doing so! Well, the numbers are tragic and should be a call for better infrastructure. If 24 people are dying on bikes in the City of LA each year, I wonder how much the city pays out in claims for not having safer options for cyclists? How many pedestrians are killed in LA each year?

  36. [...] According to the blog Biking in LA, 24 riders were killed in traffic-related accidents in Los Angeles County in 2011 — 71 in Southern California. While the figure for LA is relatively consistent, it’s growing in the surrounding area. [...]

  37. [...] According to the blog Biking in LA, 24 riders were killed in traffic-related accidents in Los Angeles County in 2011 — 71 in Southern California. While the figure for LA is relatively consistent, it’s growing in the surrounding area. [...]

  38. […] risk for me to take. I admit don’t know much about the statistics, but I did come across this blog post that goes over some of the 2011 numbers and causes of death for cyclists. (BikinginLA seems like a […]

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    Analyzing 2011 SoCal cycling fatalities: Los Angeles — and door zones — may be safer than you think | BikinginLA

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