Tag Archive for SWITRS

Morning Links: CA exceeds national average in bicycling deaths, Caltrans studies bike crashes in LA County

Maybe we’re not quite as bad as it seems.

It’s been reported that California leads the nation in bicycling fatalities, with Florida a close second.

That doesn’t take into account the difference in population, though; as the nation’s largest state, it’s not surprising we lead in this most unwelcome category.

But if you look at the rate of bicycling deaths on a per capita basis, you get a very different picture. Stats man Ed Ryder created a graph to put things in better perspective, showing the Golden State ranks sixth in deaths per one million population.

Deadliest States by Population

Which is still too damn high.

As his next chart clearly shows, California has exceeded the national average every year since 2004. And probably before that.

CA bike deaths re: US

Which leaves us with the question what are we doing wrong?

And what are we going to do about it?

You can read his full report here.


Caltrans and UCLA offer a detailed study of bike crashes in Los Angeles County based on the CHP’s SWITRS data, correlated with ridership based on local bike counts.

Both of which can be problematic; SWITRS relies on voluntary reporting of crashes by local police agencies, not all of whom provide accurate or timely data.

And bike counts only offer a snapshot of who is riding in a given area at a given time. Unfortunately though, it’s the only data available for many areas, since both the city and county of Los Angeles have long failed in their responsibility to collect accurate ridership data.

Without accurate data, it’s impossible to make the informed choices necessary to meet save lives and meet the needs of bike riders.

I haven’t had a chance to dig into the study yet. However, Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious called out a few key points.

  • Right turn only lanes double the risk for cyclists
  • LA Metro Rapid bus lines have a higher risk of bicycle crashes when compared to other primary roads without rapid bus lines
  • Locations with the highest crash risk tend to have below-average bicycle ridership
  • Roads with vehicle volumes over 20,000 have significantly higher average crash counts and crash rates for bike riders
  • There is a higher number of crashes and crash rates in poorer, non-white neighborhoods than higher income, white neighborhoods
  • People of color have higher risk of bike crashes than whites
  • If you ride your bike in high income neighborhood, you’re less likely to crash your bicycle
  • Vehicle speeds above 30 mph are associated with about 30-40% more crashes, but about 200-300% higher crash risk per cyclist
  • Lower-hanging fruit in terms of safety interventions is where ridership is moderate but risk is high

Masoner credits CABO’s Jim Baross for forwarding the report.


Great post from Detroit’s Wheelhouse, explaining how to drive like you don’t want to murder cyclists.

Seriously, this should be required reading for anyone who drives, or is even thinking about it.


Britain’s Lizzie Armistead has been cleared to compete in the Rio Olympics, despite missing three drug tests in a 24-hout period. And despite ample warnings. However, a doping official says they made the right call to reinstate her.

A South Korean cyclist is the first casualty of the Olympics as he gets mirrored on a training ride.

NBC presents the full schedule of Olympic cycling events, which will be available for live streaming.

Nineteen-year old South African cyclist Keagan Girdlestone is making a near-miraculous recovery after he was nearly killed crashing into a support vehicle during Italy’s Coppa Della Pace in June.

Former doper and ex-Tour de France winner Floyd Landis is now in the ganja rub business.

With the departure of its founder, Colorado’s USA Pro Challenge has semi-officially bitten the dust. Although it could be replaced by a seven-stage race for amateurs who can afford it.

London’s mass RideLondon race will be the first and only British event on the WorldTour pro cycling calendar next year.

Sunday’s Manhattan Beach Grand Prix will feature a new 50-minute race for junior riders.



LA County is offering a $10,000 reward for the people who pistol-whipped a doctor after he refused to pay $150 for allegedly damaging a bicycle.

Streetsblog’s Sahra Sulaiman reports on the South LA Vision Zero focus group, stressing the importance of getting to know the South LA community before “presuming to plan for it or construct campaigns targeting it.” Meanwhile, Streetsblog’s Joe Linton has his own comic thoughts on Vision Zero.

Anti-bike incumbent councilmember Gil Cedillo has raised $250,000 for his re-election campaign, far more than grass-roots challenger Josef Bray-Ali.

A writer for The Source tries the new Metro Bike bikeshare, and she likes it.

LA Downtowner visits The Wheelhouse coffee shop/bike shop in DTLA. Not to be confused with the aforementioned Detroit establishment of the same name.

CiclaValley begins counting down LA’s ten most essential climbs.



Streetsblog writes about the state legislation that would lower the fine for drivers who roll through red lights to make a right turn. Meanwhile, the LA Post-Examiner takes a look at the issue as well, and gives this site a shout-out in the process; thanks to Tim Forkes for the link and the kind words.

Costa Mesa police are looking for the thief who stole a $3,000 bike from a 22-year old man’s garage while he was spending his birthday at Children’s Hospital donating blood; he used the bike for physical and emotional therapy after suffering a series of medical issues. Seriously, there’s a special place in Hell for whoever took that bike.

A Santa Barbara rider explains the origins of the city’s annual Fiesta Cruiser Ride in 1979.

When a Bakersfield man agreed to meet someone at a park to sell a bike he’d advertised on Craigslist, the buyer stole his bike, then shot at him as he pursued the thief’s car. Best advice I’ve seen for similar situations is to meet the other party at the local police station for any exchanges.

A bike rider killed in Sacramento last month had moved to the city to start over after kicking his addiction to drugs.

An Auburn mountain biker was rescued after a fall when people heard his screams for help.



Bike lawyer Bob Mionske explains how to lower your legal responsibility when organizing a group ride.

A 23-year old Spokane man is facing a murder charge after deliberately running down a bike rider when they quarreled over a pair of speakers.

A second man has been charged with spreading tacks along a popular Denver-area cycling route; the suspect is a cousin of the man charged last week. And both should go away for as long as the law allows.

A Houston restaurant is under attack by eco-friendly, bike riding vandals.

A Chicago jazzman has been practicing his saxophone under an overpass for decades as drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians go by.

Evanston IL residents bring out the pitchforks and torches after a new protected bike lane is installed, calling it dangerous and poorly thought out; one protester noted that drivers had to move into the parking lane to let a fire truck pass. Which is exactly what they are supposed to do.

Michigan bike riders are increasingly wary as roads become more dangerous.

A New Hampshire man has been commuting seven miles to work by bike for the last 16 years, towing his dog behind him in an open trailer.

New York police still haven’t made an arrest in the hit-and-run murder of a bike rider last month; police recovered the car the driver used as he appeared to intentionally swerve into the bike lane to run down the victim from behind.

The Alabama road rage victim whose dreams of riding across the US were shattered when a rampaging truck driver ran over his bike will leave the state with fond memories after all, as people donated over $4,000 to keep him going.



A Winnipeg writer says bicyclists want to get off the road as much as motorists want them to.

After being confronted by a racist, road-raging driver and his passengers, an Edmonton, Canada bicyclist says he won’t back down in the face of online harassment, because as a bike rider, he already knows what it’s like to be marginalized.

Brompton’s quirky folding bikes have achieved cult status.

A cop in the UK was honored for saving the life of a bike rider trapped under the wheels of a double-decker bus.

The mayor of Paris says she wants to “give Parisians back the space that cars have taken from them.” I’d love to hear LA’s Mayor Garcetti say that. And mean it.

Israeli border guards take a bike from an eight-year old Palestinian girl and throw it into the bushes, apparently to reserve the road for Jewish settlers; only one of the two officers involved was disciplined.

A Sydney, Australia bike rider suffered third degree burns on his upper thigh when his iPhone exploded after he fell off his bike. Thanks to Stanley E. Goldich and Mike Wilkinson for the heads-up.

Not every cyclist who gets it wrong is an “arrogant arsehole,” a newly minted Perth, Australia bike commuter warns; they might just be incompetent.

Relatives of a Philippine cyclist fatally shot by an angry driver call for restraint in the hopes that he may be the last victim of road rage.



Your next bike could be an ad. How to spot a female cyclist. Besides that whole woman on a bike, thing, that is.

And it’s a rocky and humiliating road to being a “real” cyclist.


Morning Links: How the economy and bike lanes affect bike wrecks, and fight the bikelash over Rowena road diet

Maybe the economy is the reason you might get hit by a car.

And more bike lanes could be the reason you don’t.

An interesting piece in Saturday’s LA Times suggests that traffic collisions surged in the first six months of this year, reversing a long-term drop, because an improved economy and lower gas prices — except in California, of course — has resulted in more people on the roads.

In fact, American’s drove a record 1.54 trillion miles in the first half of the year, beating the previous high water mark set eight years ago.

The story notes that the increase in miles driven doesn’t totally explain the jump in collisions here in California, suggesting that distracted driving also plays a significant role.

Interestingly, Dennis Hindman recently came to a similar conclusion, digging into SWITRS data submitted by the LAPD to conclude that pedestrian-involved collisions dropped when the economy tanked, while bike collisions jumped.

And that bike wrecks started to fall when more bike lanes were installed in Los Angeles.

The first chart below was created using California Highway Patrol SWITRS data of motor vehicle involved collisions reported by the LAPD within the city of Los Angeles.

Notice how the amount of pedestrian involved collisions with motor vehicles started to drop in 2009 when the economy went into a recession. Then the pedestrian involved motor vehicle collisions began to increase as the economy started to recover.

The motor vehicle involved collisions with bicycles rose in 2008 when a sharp increase in the price of gasoline very likely contributed to a large increase in the amount of bicycle commuters. The bicycle involved collisions kept increasing in the recession from 2009 through 2011, unlike the pedestrian involved collisions with motor vehicles.

The LADOT started to greatly increase the miles of bike lanes installed per calendar year beginning with 20.94 miles in 2011. Then 62.42 miles of bike lanes were installed in 2012, 96.6 miles in 2013 and 23.3 miles in 2014.

The motor vehicle involved collisions with bicycles had a much lower amount of increase in 2013 of about 1% compared to a 7% increase in 2012 and then declined by about 6% in 2014. This occurred even though there was likely a large increase in the amount of people bicycling due to the miles of bicycle lanes installed.

The percentage of the total motor vehicle collisions that involved bicycles has gone from 3% in 2007 to 6% in 2014.

Chart one

The second chart below, created from SWITRS data, shows a decline in the motor vehicle involved collisions involving other motor vehicles reported by the LAPD during the recession. Unlike the pedestrian involved collisions, these motor vehicle collisions have not increased to the pre-recession level in 2008 as the economy recovered. A contributing factor in this could be the increased level of safety for occupants of cars that car manufacturers are required to install. This may not have lowered the amount of collisions involving motor vehicles, but it could have reduced the number of LAPD collision reports due to a lower incidence of injuries to motor vehicle occupants.

Chart 2

Comparison of motor vehicle involved fatalities from collisions with other motor vehicles or pedestrians.

Chart 3

Of course, before someone else points it out, we should note that correlation is not causation. But the data does suggest it’s worth considering.

Thanks to Dennis Hindman for his analysis. Not many people have the skill, or the patience, to wade through complex data like that, and actually make sense of it.


Writing for Flying Pigeon, Richard Risemberg offers a warning about the bikelash rearing its ugly head at tonight’s town hall meeting to discuss the successful Rowena road diet, which has cut injury collisions by half.

Ivanhoe Elementary School Auditorium
2828 Herkimer St, Los Angeles, CA 90039
6:30 – 8:30pm


Cycling in the South Bay’s Seth Davidson gets a big markdown on a citation for blowing a stop on a group ride, but wonders if the ticket will count against his license.

Which serves as a reminder to always make sure any traffic ticket you get while riding clearly indicates you were on a bike. Bicycling infractions should never count as points against your driver’s license, since no license is required to ride a bike.

But if it’s not marked, the DMV may assume you were in a car, and wrongly assign points against your license for the infraction.


People say cyclists dress funny. I’ll take sausage-casing spandex festooned with logos over fashionista haute couture any day.


The Vuelta was won — and lost — on Saturday’s final mountain stage as race leader Tom Dumoulin cracked, losing nearly four minutes to fall out of contention for the podium, and allowing Fabio Aru to secure the overall victory.

Dumoulin’s performance over the first 19 stages has the Dutch dreaming of Tour de France glory. And a Madrid thief earned himself a striped jersey when police spotted a $13,600 bike stolen from the Orica Greenedge team for sale in a second hand store for one-tenth its value.

Meanwhile, American Shelley Olds sprinted to victory in the first Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta, a token 54-mile circuit race on the final day of the men’s tour.

Germany’s Andre Greipel took the seventh stage of the Tour of Britain in a photo finish, then was stripped of his victory the next day.

Forty-two-year old American Molly Shaffer Van Houweling set a new women’s hour record in Mexico City, breaking the old mark that had stood for a dozen years.

And Bicycling magazine finally catches up with the No Podium Girls movement, and agrees that offering up hot women as the spoils of victory send the wrong message to women, as well as men.



LADOT released their annual report for the last fiscal year, saying safety is their priority. Which is a welcome change from the old LADOT that focused strictly on moving as many cars as quickly as they could, safety be damned.

A Santa Monica High School student is working to promote bike helmet use with a new website, along with a 20% discount on helmets at Helen’s Cycles if you mention the site.

Bad news from Pasadena, as bike rider described only as an Asian man in his 20s is in critical condition after somehow colliding with a parked car with enough force to shatter the rear windshield; he suffered severe head and neck injuries despite wearing a helmet.

Next month’s Richard Selje Ride4Recovery in Pasadena will raise funds to make treatment more affordable for men who want to get clean, with rides of 25, 62 and 100 miles.

The Daily Breeze looks at the Redondo Beach man building custom bikes with steering wheels instead of handlebars; so far he’s only raised just $10 of a requested $10,000 with a month to go. Call me crazy, but I’d think a steering wheel would make the handling awfully twitchy.

CLR Effect’s Michael Wagner goes for a dirty ride, and looks forward to the coming SoCal Cross season.



A new poll says most Californians think local politics are pointless. And that’s how we get stuck with people like Gil Cedillo, when only a handful of people turn out to vote.

The Orange County Bicycle Coalition reports the Santa Ana River Trail is open again, after riders were detoured for construction work.

A writer for the San Diego Free Press says the city’s North Park neighborhood should be bike friendly, but isn’t.

San Diego’s Bike SD will benefit from this weekend’s 35-mile Bike to the Border.

Scofflaw Santa Cruz cyclists attend bike traffic school, just like their counterparts on four wheels. A bill to allow similar bicycle traffic diversion schools statewide passed the legislature last month and awaits the governor’s signature.

Caught on video: A plant-killing San Francisco bike messenger was apparently doing other cyclists and the native environment a favor by stomping out fennel.



Two Special Forces vets are riding cross-country to raise money to help the families of special ops soldiers, while 10 cyclists are setting out from San Diego today on a ride across the US to raise awareness of mental illness.

Portland opens a new bridge for trains, buses, bikes and pedestrians, but motor vehicles need not apply; the lights on the bridge change according to the river flow and temperature.

A dozen blind Iowans team with sighted cyclists for a tandem bike ride.

Just days after complaining to the local press about the danger of motorists driving in a dedicated bus and bike only lane, an Ohio cyclist was injured in a fall when a driver blared on his horn while hugging his back wheel. Although the driver, who claims he didn’t know about the lane restriction, says he just “beeped at the gentleman and he fell off his bike.” Right.

Nearly 500 cyclists ride from Ground Zero to Boston to remember victims of 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings, raising half a million dollars for the families of police officers.

A Boston area livable streets group wants to connect the area’s existing pathways to create a 200 mile bike and pedestrian network.



British police are looking for a driver who got out of his car and punched a bike rider in the face, breaking his cheekbone in an unprovoked attack.

A Brit bike rider uses his to deliver blood, breast milk and meningitis fluid to hospitals.

The new leader of the UK’s Labour Party isn’t just unabashedly liberal, he’s also car-free and rides a bike; in fact, he owns two.

One-hundred-fifty Indian med students ride their bikes to promote bicycling and other forms exercise to prevent heart attacks.

Bicycles are helping young Bangladeshi women eradicate gender disparity by providing the opportunity to get an education.

A New Zealand study said MAMILs — Middle Aged Men In Lycra, for the uninitiated — were keeping people from riding bikes, as just the thought of wearing skintight togs was enough to scare some people off. Spandex serves a purpose, especially if you plan on long, fast rides. But bicycling isn’t a fashion show; wear whatever the hell you feel comfortable riding in.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei takes his impressive bicycle art sculpture to Australia’s National Gallery of Victoria. I can’t help thinking that those 1,500 bikes would be even more impressive on the streets with people riding them, though. Thanks to Megan Lynch for the link.



If you’re going to ride your bike to rob a bank, at least do it right; a New York man tried to rob six New York banks in just two days, but only managed to ride off with a lousy thousand bucks. Evidently, pointlessly sexist ads for children’s bike are out of fashion these days.

And no. Just… no.


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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