The high cost of traffic deaths, a possible 3-foot passing bill and ride with Bicycle Fixation on Sunday

The cost of a traffic death goes far beyond the emotional and financial toll it takes on the victim’s family.

Not surprisingly, there’s a cost to society at large, as well. And like virtually anything else, it can be measured in monetary figures.

The National Safety Council values the average actual cost of traffic deaths  — wages, productivity, medical expenses, etc — at $1.29 million, and the comprehensive costs to society at $4.3 million per death. Incapacitating injuries are valued at $67,800 and $216,000 respectively.

By that measure, Portland’s improvements in traffic safety has resulted 84 fewer deaths and roughly 2400 fewer injuries over the past four years. Which works out to a monetary savings of $1,629,913,300.

That’s $1.6 billion dollars. And nearly 2500 lives.

And that’s just one city.

Meanwhile, by the same measurement, the 12 cycling deaths that I’m aware of so far this year in Southern California have cost us $51.6 million.

And that’s just the financial toll.

The emotional toll is incalculable.


According to Streetsblog, Long Beach State Senator Alan Lowenthal has introduced a bill that could become a three-foot passing law, even though it doesn’t currently include those words.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the state has considered establishing a minimum passing distance. A similar bill died in 2006 following opposition from the CHP and the trucking industry, which argued that trucks wouldn’t be able to pass cyclists on narrow roadways — as if trying to pass a cyclist at a distance of less than three feet was safe now.

Some have argued that a three-foot distance is unenforceable, since police have no way of measuring if a vehicle passed a cyclist at 35” inches or 37.” Which is ridiculous, of course.

Police won’t be looking for minor infractions; the law will come into force when they observe a driver buzzing a cyclist at far less than three feet, or when the vehicle actually comes in contact with a rider.

And it doesn’t really change anything.

Current law calls for a safe passing distance; all this would do is clarify that anything less than three feet — or roughly the arm length of a grown man — isn’t safe. Which is a hell of a lot better than the current standard, which basically allows anything short of actual physical contact.

Meanwhile, UCLA has started their own campaign to encourage campus drivers to give riders three feet. Good idea; however, I have a better one.

Just ban cars from campus entirely.


Mr. Bicycle Fixation, Rick Risemberg, invites you to ride along in celebration of his birthday on Sunday. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him, Rick offers a near-encyclopedic knowledge of local cycling, and is a hell of a nice guy. If my wife hadn’t already booked my weekend, I’d be tempted to join in myself.

So if you’ve got the day free, by all means, go have a little fun for me.


The Times asks why Angelenos are lazier than you’d think — and if something as simple as bike lanes would help. LADOT invites you to attend the next meeting of the Bike Plan Implementation Team on Tuesday, which conveniently comes just hours after the bike plan will (presumably) be adopted at City Hall. Good Sam helps out with the new Bike Wrangler program; then again, as hosts of the annual Blessing of the Bicycles, they’ve long been a friend of local riders. The Argonaut offers a post-mortem on the failed attempt to extend the Venice beachfront bike path to the Marina jetty; thanks to Curbed LA for the link. The Daily Bruin looks at Friday’s Complete Streets conference downtown. How to build your conditioning for endurance riding. Examined Spoke suggests cycling is a solution for our crowded streets, even if that means riding behind children and old people, and notes that L.A. is twice as dense as Holland — in more ways than one, I fear.

Santa Monica plans bikeways throughout the downtown area, including bike lanes on the California Incline leading up the bluff from PCH to Ocean Blvd. Glendale reports on last year’s bike and pedestrian count. Long Beach’s Charlie Gandy offers a look at the city’s new, still-under-construction separated bike lanes. The OC Register reports that Danae Miller, the alleged drunk driver who killed Amine Britel on Monday night, had actually received 17 traffic tickets since 2005, but had six dismissed; meanwhile, CDM Cyclist notes that the road is popular with cyclists, offering bike lanes and a long uphill. the  An Orange County glossy discovers Cycle Chic and social cycling. Santa Cruz police go against current trends and common sense by urging that cyclists be required to display license numbers on their bikes.

Consider the 8-80 Rule of cycling infrastructure — is a street safe for an 8 year old or an 80 year old to ride on?  A new Streetfilms video says biking is redefining infrastructure and our cities. Lessons learned from two years of winter cycling. A proposed bike/ped boardwalk along a Mississippi River rail bridge could result in a 600 mile bike path on both sides of the river. Zeke attends the North Carolina Bike/Ped Summit, once he finally finds it. A Tampa Bay columnist calls for a vulnerable user law.

David Hembrow says maybe London’s bike share program hasn’t been as successful as it seems. Maybe your dream job awaits at London 2012. Kiwi correspondent The Trickster offers more photos of damage to a popular riding route from the recent earthquake, and notes he was supposed to race through there next month; doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. There are several ways you can help. Don’t miss this exuberant celebration of cycling from Nairobi.

Finally, London’s Daily Mail concludes — incorrectly — that bike commuting is a leading cause of heart attacks, even though the study they based it on shows no such thing.  But hey, never let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the new intern insists that I’ve been working long enough.


  1. The Trickster says:

    Again thanks for that.

    If I find anything more cycling related, I’ll post it 🙂

    • bikinginla says:

      You’ve got it backwards, Richard — thank you for sending these to me. My heart goes out to all those effected by this quake.

  2. Zeke says:

    I hope the Intern is being well paid for the obviously tough assignment currently being waged. As always, thank you for the link. Good news – no strip searches today! 🙂

    – Zeke

    • bikinginla says:

      We’ve got her working for kibble and pets, plus free housing and medical. It’s a dogs life, I know.

      And no offensel, Zeke, but there is not enough whiskey in this house to get that last image out of my head.

  3. Sirinya says:

    Re: Tail ad–Speaking for myself, I wish we could ban cars from campus too. It’d sure be a lot quieter… CicLAvia-like (joyous and serene).

  4. Eve says:

    I read your blog every week and it’s always so interesting. Keep up the good work!

  5. The Trickster says:

    Another sad one 🙁

    74yr old former NZ Rep cyclist. Sounds like he was out in the suburbs a bit too.

    However something cool at the same time… big thanks to Sam Brewley (young NZ rider on Radioshack, bronze medal winning trackie at 2008 Beijing Olympics)

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