You might recall that earlier this week, I linked to a column in the Orange County Register.
A writer for the Orange County Register joins with the OC Wheelmen to challenge other bike clubs to enforce safety rules for their members.
I have to admit, the story bothered me.
In it David Whiting joined with a couple of local OC cycling organizations to call for strict observance of all traffic laws, with riders who don’t risking banishment from the club. And suggested a prohibition against riding side-by-side, even though that’s legal in California — and explicitly allowed under chapter 11-1206 of the Universal Vehicle Code.
Obeying red lights is probably not the deal breaker. But stop signs? As a cyclist, I know many of us figure they don’t apply to us. Wrong.
And single-file pelotons? You might be muttering, “Not going to happen.”
As one man said Wednesday night, cyclists are more visible and safer when riding in a pack. And I might agree.
But I’m also looking at it from a driver’s perspective. Not only do packs block streets, they scare the bejeebers out of drivers.
Simply put, cyclists need to extend courtesy to drivers whenever possible. Swarming a road is not the way.
The reason for that club-level crackdown is to keep cyclists alive, noting that 80 cyclists have died in Orange County over the last 5 years — seven this year alone.
It’s an admirable goal.
Personally, I support anything that will make our chosen form of transportation/recreation safer while supporting our right to the road. And I have no problem with enforcing traffic laws, as long as authorities target dangerous behavior regardless of who commits the violation, and don’t single out cyclists for selective enforcement.
I also recognize that this could go a long way towards improving the image problem cyclists have with the driving public, many of whom see us as reckless scofflaws who needlessly flaunt traffic regulations.
Unlike all those drivers who never speed, text while driving or fail to come to a full stop at red lights and stop signs, of course. And each of whom are no doubt fully versed on the rights of cyclists, and gladly give us the road space to which we’re legally entitled.
I had other things to deal with, though — not the least of which is a bad back that’s kept me off my bike and wacked out on muscle relaxants most of the week.
Not to worry, though. It only hurts when I move.
But the story continued to lurk in the back of my drug addled mind, until Richard Masoner, author of the excellent Cyclelicious, emailed me yesterday to ask the same question that had been eating at me.
Just how many of those recent deaths resulted from club rides or cyclists blowing through stop signals or riding two abreast?
So I stopped what I was doing, cleared my head, and dug through my files for every OC bike death I could find dating back to December of last year. The results didn’t surprise me, though they might surprise Mr. Whiting.
- Dan Crain died in August, hit by a car merging at high speed at what appears to be a poorly designed intersection.
- Michael William Nine died in July while on a club ride; but rather than “swarming the road,” he was leading the group downhill when a gardener’s truck pulled out in front of him on the wrong side of the street.
- Alan Earl Miller died in May when a driver drifted off the road and struck him while he was riding on the shoulder of the roadway.
- Annette Ferrin-Rodgers died in April when she was hit by a bus while riding in a crosswalk with no lights on her bike.
- Jeffery Blum died in March after lingering in a coma since 2007, following a collision in which the driver who hit him — the only witness — blamed Blum for swerving in front of him.
- Donald Murphy was killed in December when a woman high on prescription meds ran him down as he was riding single file with other riders on the shoulder of the road.
- Nine-year old Nicolas Vela was killed in December when he was crossing in the crosswalk in front of a monster truck whose driver was too high up to see the kid on a bike directly in front of him.
That’s seven deaths in nine months — none of which involved cyclists running red lights or stop signs, or riding two or more abreast. And only two involving multiple riders or club rides.
I also found three other bike collisions I’d mentioned since last December.
- An unnamed 16-year old rider was critically injured in March while riding across a Santa Ana street.
- Patrick Shannon was killed in April, 2009 when he was struck from behind by a hit-and-run driver while riding home from work.
- Fourteen-year old Danny Oates was killed in August, 2007 by a driver high on drugs who was also texting at the time of the crash.
If you see any collision on that list that could have been prevented by observing stop signals or riding single file, you’re doing better than me. And only three — Blum, Ferrin-Rodgers and the unnamed 16-year old — could arguably be blamed on the cyclist.
And that my problem with Whiting’s plan.
While I have no doubt his heart is in the right place, it sounds like another case of saying we have to clean up our act so drivers won’t kill us, rather than placing the blame squarely where it belongs — on dangerous drivers, bad infrastructure and lax enforcement.
And dangerously customized trucks that prevent drivers from seeing bike riding kids right in front of their bumpers.
As Masoner wrote,
I’m sure the monster truck driver was terrified of the little nine year old he crushed on the road.
I’m a big believer in being responsible for my own safety. There are certainly actions we can take to reduce the risk of crashing and dying. We as cyclists should be courteous, and we should share the road by riding legally, but pelotons of cyclists hogging the road and blowing stop signs is not a bike safety issue in Orange County or anywhere else. Will single file riding do anything to prevent cyclist fatalities in Orange County? Should a bike club really suspend membership for rolling a stop sign, which is something that 97% of motorists are also guilty of? Can we also call on the AAA to suspend benefits for their members who are observed violating the rules of the road and not exercising common courtesy on the road?
Whiting promises a Phase II that will focus on driver safety. I’ll look forward to seeing it.
In the meantime, though, let’s agree that cyclists should ride safely and observe the law.
But stop blaming the victims.
And stop pretending that it’s the behavior of bicyclists that puts us at risk.
After 17 stages of the Vuelta, Nibali found himself back in the red leader’s jersey; the question is, can he keep it? Cavendish claims his third victory in stage 18; the race should be decided on Saturday’s final climb.
NIMBY residents file a lawsuit to stop the Expo Bikeway. Writing for the Bus Bench, Browne Molyneux says she hasn’t seen the Give Me 3 campaign south of the 10 Freeway, and doesn’t want LADOT’s and the Mayor’s table scraps. Santa Monica Spoke plans a Park(ing) Day park at Swingers on Broadway, complete with bike valet; LADOT Bike Blog looks at Park(ing) Day and Saturday’s Bicycle Beauty Pageant. Speaking of LADOT BB, Bikeside responds to the USC bike ban by taking the poorly paid student intern who reported it to task, rather than the university that did it. Join the LACBC and Bicidigna for a Vuelta de la Bici Digna, a free ride with the Bicidignarias from MacArthur Park to Pan Pacific Park this Saturday from noon to three. Now that texting while driving has been banned, there’s twice as much risk that the driver that hits you will be doing it. Occidental College students should benefit from the improved access provided by the West Valley Greenway Project. Car-less Valley Girl may have to get a new name, but promises not to give up her bike. Will reminisces about living in a city where the destination is always more important than the journey.
The San Francisco Gate takes a look at the Idaho Stop Law, and asks why shouldn’t drivers be able to roll stop signs as well — not that they don’t already; Dave Moulton says it’s one thing to roll through slowly, but blowing through makes us all look bad. A Santa Rosa area cyclist is hospitalized after being sideswiped by a pickup; the driver plays the universal SMIDSY get-out-of-jail-free card.
Bikes Belong and Interbike combine to bring 3.2 miles of bike lanes and a student bike program to the trade show’s soon-to-be-ex-home in Las Vegas. A primer on protecting yourself from the sun while you ride; take it from me, it matters. The fashion world discovers cycle chic at Monday’s Betsey Johnson runway show. A Chicago lawyer suggests buying a non-owners car insurance policy even if you don’t drive. The joys of riding to work — and a little exercise, too. Are you ready for some… High School Mountain Bike Racing? The mean streets of Detroit turn surprisingly bike friendly; losing half a city’s population makes for a lot of empty streets. The perfect lock for anyone who’s looking for a prettier way to secure a bike; personally, I’d use a Brinks truck if I could fit it in my seat pack. A writer questions how it’s possible to go over the handlebars; in my experience, it’s pretty easy if you’re not careful.
A British writer strives to be a MAMIL — in this case, a Middle Aged Mum in Lycra. A driver repeatedly cuts off a cyclist, then throws a drink cup at him — and gets convicted, thanks to the rider’s helmet-cam footage. More debate on Australia’s mandatory helmet law. Copenhagen cyclists get the right to turn right on a red.
Finally, an Indiana cyclist discovers the hard way that there’s only one thing more dangerous than texting while driving. And don’t try this at home — a fourteen year old cyclist gets off his bike, climbs on the hood of the car behind him and smashes the windshield, causing $500 damage.