Tag Archive for SWITRS

Guest post: Detailed analysis of 2013 bike collisions in the City of Angels

Now the study is complete.

A few weeks ago, long-time LA bike advocate Dennis Hindman wrote a detailed analysis of the city’s bike-involved collisions, based on partial data for the year 2013. 

Now he has finished his analysis of every bike collision listed in the state’s SWITRS traffic collision database last year.

The results are eye opening, and should give insight on how safety efforts should be directed for the greatest impact.

Or better yet, no impact between cyclists and motor vehicles. 

But let’s be clear about one thing.

As impressive as Hindman’s study is, it shouldn’t be up to a single person, or organization, to analyze how collisions occur on our streets. 

It should be the responsibility of our city government. Because if they don’t know how these collisions happen, they have no idea how to prevent them. 

And traffic safety shouldn’t be left to guesswork. 

……..

I have finally completed a list of all the types of 2,421 bicycle involved collisions that were reported by the LAPD in 2013. This was mainly done by just manually counting them. All of these collisions involved injuries.

There were 2,597 pedestrian involved collisions with motor vehicles and 2,277 for bicyclists (some of the reported 2,421 bicycle collisions for the year did not involve motor vehicles). Eighty of those pedestrian involved collisions were fatalities and fifteen were fatalities for bicyclists. There was one bicyclist collision with a train that was fatal. That brings the total reported collision fatalities for bicyclists reported by the LAPD at 16 for 2013.

Bicyclists riding the wrong way are 569 of the collisions. Drivers turning right were involved in 239 (42%) of these collisions. I did not count all the different ways the collisions occurred in this case since the bicyclists were not traveling in the correct direction. Its rather obvious from the raw data that the main danger when riding the wrong way is motor vehicles turning right.

A bicyclist will sometimes ride through a crosswalk in the opposite direction of motor vehicle traffic. From what I have observed, a motorist turning right will frequently just look to their left to see if a motor vehicle is coming and not to their right before proceeding.

Subtracting the wrong way riders from the total leaves 1,852 bicycle involved collisions.

From experience I know that the vast majority of bicyclists are riding between the parked motor vehicles and the front right quarter panel of moving vehicles. Few are riding directly in front of moving motor vehicles in the middle of the moving lane. Since that’s where most of the bicyclists are riding, then it would make sense that most of the collisions would involve cyclists riding in that position on the road. That does not necessarily mean that it is much more dangerous to be riding this way.

The following information does not include the raw collision data of wrong way bicycle riders.

According to some bicycle riders, the danger of being right hooked by drivers is greatly increased when you ride between the parked vehicles and moving vehicles because drivers are much less likely to see you there compared to riding directly in front of them in the middle of the motor vehicle lane. I counted almost as many collisions for bicyclists with motor vehicles turning left (326), as there were for motor vehicles turning right (337). It would appear that drivers tend to not see the bicyclist when turning in either direction before colliding with them.

Parked cars are also sighted as a major hazard by those advocating riding in the middle of motor vehicle lanes. I counted 155 collisions involving bicyclists and parked motor vehicles. I don’t know how many of these involved doors swinging open in front of the bicyclists.

If that sounds particularly hazardous, there were also 55 bicycle collisions with motor vehicles stopped, 125 sideswipes, 16 collisions involving drivers backing up, 7 drivers slowing and the bicyclist hitting them, 6 improper passes by drivers, 5 drivers parking, 17 unsafe driving speed, 72 rear end collisions, 23 lane changes by drivers and 20 lane changes by a bicyclist. That’s 346 collisions. Well over double the amount of bicycle collisions involving parked motor vehicles.

Another argument against riding to the right of moving vehicles and next to parked vehicles is the danger from cars exiting driveways. There were 78 bicycle involved collisions with motor vehicles entering traffic. I presume those to have mainly occurred due to vehicles pulling away from the curb, exiting driveways and freeway off-ramps. Adding this to the parked vehicle collisions still doesn’t come close to the amount of other types of collisions I mentioned above.

There were also 20 head-on collisions where the direction of travel was either E/W or N/S and 367 collisions where both driver and bicyclist were heading straight (typically intersections) but in different directions (not head-on).

Drivers making a U-turn collided with bicyclists 12 times and 3 U-turns by bicyclists involved a collision with a motor vehicle.

Four collisions involved bicycles passing motorists and 6 were unsafe turns by bicyclists.

Bicyclists entering traffic involved 104 collisions.

Right turns by bicyclists were 25 of the collisions and left turns 47.

LAPD reported 29 pedestrian collisions with bicycles. No pedestrian was killed.

Bicyclists hitting an unknown object, slipping and falling or hitting a pothole involved 39 injury reported collisions.

Bicyclist involved in a collision with another bicyclist was reported 7 times.

There were 12 collisions where the primary factor was unknown.

There was one case where a bicyclist hit the driver and the driver (88 years old) was the only one with an injury and also one collision where the passenger of the vehicle was the only one who had an injury when it involved a bicycle rider.

Lastly, a bicyclist injury occurred from colliding with an animal.

My total count is larger than the 2,421 bicycle involved collisions due to counting such things as entering traffic, turning by bicycles and motorists separately for each collision. Each collision could involve a turn by both bicycle and motorist or entering  traffic and a turn.

The variety of types of collisions reinforces to me that the Dutch safety principle of separation by mass, speed and direction when possible is the way to go to improve safety. Bicycle riders should not be mixed with motor vehicles that have a much greater mass and are going at a much greater average speed than the bicyclist.

Having more than one motor vehicle lane in each direction on a street increases the likelihood of a higher motorist speed, increases the chance of lane change and also increases the possibility that the driver will get distracted by all of the different actions going on around them. That’s why the Dutch national Crow manual for bicycle infrastructure advises to have a cycle track or bike path built if there is more than one motor vehicle lane in each direction on a street.

……..
Hindman followed-up with a look at the bicycling fatalities reported to the state for 2013 in the city of LA.

Here’s a list of the 16 reported bicycle collision fatalities by the LAPD in 2013 and the primary factors for the collisions:

  • 1-bicyclist unsafe speed
  • 1-driver unsafe speed. Both driver and bicyclist headed west. Hit and run driver.
  • 1-train
  • 2-parked vehicle
  • 1-driver alcohol/drugs. Both driver and bicyclists headed east. Three bicyclists involved.
  • 1-driver alcohol/drugs. Both driver and bicyclist headed east.
  • 1-driver headed east/bicyclist headed north.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver moving south/bicyclist headed west. Hit and run driver.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver headed west/bicyclist headed south. Hit and run driver.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver headed south/bicyclist headed west.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver headed north/bicyclist headed west.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver headed south. Direction of travel for bicyclist not indicated. Bicyclist 90 years old. Hit and run driver.
  • 1-unknown primary collision factor. Both driver and bicyclist making left turn.
  • 1-right turn driver/bicyclist entering traffic.
  • 1-right turn driver/bicyclist proceeding straight.

This shows some of the wide variables in collisions. A bicyclist cannot avoid all of these situations. A barrier between the bicyclist and driver would decrease the potential for drivers and bicyclist to hit each other when changing lanes, rear-end collisions or merging. Removing the parked vehicles from arterial streets or a buffer between the bicyclist and parked vehicles would reduce some of the conflicts. Different signal phases for bicyclists/pedestrians and drivers at the intersections would decrease the potential conflicts further.

……..

Thanks to Dennis Hindman for caring enough about your safety and mine to assume this responsibility himself.

 

California traffic deaths continue to drop, but OC bike fatality stats just don’t add up

Evidently, 2010 was a very good year for Orange County cyclists.

Or maybe not.

According to official statistics released recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, only three cyclists were killed in the county in 2010.

This in a county that averages one bicycling fatality a month. And one that suffered 21 bike deaths just five years ago, in 2006.

Judging by the stats, the county has shown a remarkable — or perhaps miraculous — improvement in bicycle safety.

Then again, things aren’t always what they seem.

Overall, the state of California showed continued improvements in roadway safety, with the total traffic fatalities in the state dropping from 4,240 in 2006 to 2,715 in 2010 — a decrease of over 1,500 in just five years.

Then again, one death is one too many.

And 2,715, while much better than previous years, still reflects the ongoing carnage on streets, as far too many people leave their homes or jobs, and never return again.

I’ll leave it to others to speculate why we’ve seen such a dramatic drop in motorist deaths.

But just imagine how much that figure could be improved if we could just get people to stay the hell away from their cars when they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Or leave their damn cell phones and other distractions behind once they slide behind the wheel.

Although fighting distracted driving looks like a losing battle as manufacturers seem intent on building distraction into their dashboards in order to bring that death rate right back up.

You have to scroll down to the middle of the NHTSA’s page for California before information on bicycling fatalities finally appears.

Surprisingly, even that shows significant improvement over the last five years, with a drop from 141 cyclists killed on California streets in 2006 to 99 in 2010. That matches the total for 2009, although the percentage of the total traffic fatalities represent by cyclists rose from 3% to 4% as other traffic fatalities dropped even more.

Then again, that number may not be entirely accurate. Because a breakdown of the totals on a countywide basis shows one highly questionable total.

And yes, I’m looking at you, OC.

To put those figures in perspective, we can add in last year’s unofficial totals from my own records, along with an average for the six-year period.

As you can see, the totals for 2010 pretty much fall in line with the six-year average, even though several counties showed a dramatic increase for last year.

With one glaring exception.

Remarkably, Orange County experienced, by far, the greatest improvement in the state, dropping to the lowest rate per capita (pdf) of any county in the California reporting even a single death, with just 0.10 cycling fatalities per 100,000 population.

By comparison, OC reported .37 bike deaths per 100,000 population in 2009, while L.A. showed .22 for both 2009 and 2010.

Maybe it’s a fluke.

Maybe the county did have an exceptionally good year. Maybe far fewer cyclists really did die on OC streets than might otherwise have been expected.

The problem is, at least two cyclists died after being hit by cars on Orange County streets that weren’t included in that total. Published news reports indicated that at least five cyclists died as a result of traffic collisions in the county that year.

In order to clarify the situation, I downloaded the entire list of 1318 bicycling collisions in Orange County from the CHP’s SWITRS database — every bike-involved collision that was reported to police in the county in 2010.

And like the FARS data, it showed just three fatalities within the county.

  • 4/20/10, Beach Blvd & LaHabra Blvd, La Habra, 49F
  • 7/15/10, Spyglass Hill CT, Newport Beach, 35M
  • 12/22/10, Brookhurst & Villa Pacific Dr, Huntington Beach, 69M

Those dates, locations and ages correspond to the tragic deaths of Annette Ferrin-Rogers, Michael Nine and Jurgen Ankenbrand.

The list also showed 59 other collisions in which a cyclist was severely injured.

Of those, two corresponded to fatal collisions that had been reported in the press:

  • 8/3/10, Newport Coast and RT 73, Newport Beach, 65M
  • 11/17/10, Walnut and Browning Avenues, Tustin, 22M

The first matches up with Dan Crain, who died 12 days after he was hit by a car, and Marco Acuapan, who lingered in a coma until April of last year following the hit-and-run collision that eventually took his life.

Maybe the problem is that they initially survived the collision, only to die days or months after the initial impact.

It could be argued that Dan Crain died as a result of the surgeries he was subjected to following his collision; however, those surgeries were performed to treat injuries he received in collision and would not have been necessary otherwise. Meanwhile, Acuapan’s death was a direct, if somewhat delayed, result of the collision that put him in a coma until the day he died.

Maybe Orange County authorities are splitting hairs by excluding their deaths.

But that appears exactly the argument Orange County is making by excluding their deaths from the county’s reported fatalities. Even though it’s hard to argue that Crain and Acuapan might not still be here if they hadn’t both been hit by cars.

Which makes me wonder if there were other deaths that year that we don’t know about. In the absence of any other news reports — and trust me, I’ve looked — we can only hope that no other deaths are hidden among the other 57 severely injured cyclists included in the SWITRS data that never made the news.

After all, it’s only in the last year or so that the press has started taking cycling collisions seriously as bicycling gains in popularity and riders press for more accurate reporting; in years past, it wasn’t unusual for cycling deaths to go virtually unnoticed by the mainstream press.

But even if you count all five fatalities, instead of just the three that were officially reported, 2010 would seem to be an exceptionally good year for Orange County cyclists. And by far, the county’s safest year on recent record.

Sadly, though, it’s not one local authorities can much take credit for; it appears to be a fluke, as cycling fatalities bounced right back with at least 13 deaths the following year.

And just three months into this year, Orange County has already seen three cyclists killed in traffic collisions — as well as a fourth who may have died of a heart attack as a result of a fall while riding, or perhaps the other way around.

Clearly, the county has a lot of work to do to make their streets safe for all users.

Regardless of what may or may not have occurred two years ago.

*Based on primarily on published news stories, as well as CHP reports.

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