Evidently, they have too many children in San Diego.
How else can you explain a news report on KFMB-TV encouraging children riding to school to risk their lives by salmoning on the wrong side of the road?
And if your child walks, rides a bike or a skateboard to school, make sure they travel against traffic and always wears a helmet.
The helmet advice is fine. In fact, helmets are legally required in California for all bike riders under 18. And walking against traffic can be good advice, although it might have been nice to encourage children to walk on the sidewalk, rather than in the street.
But riding a bike against traffic is not only illegal — bikes are required to ride with traffic — but exceptionally dangerous. While it may give the illusion of increasing safety by allowing riders to see oncoming traffic, it reduces reaction times for both the rider and drivers while greatly increasing the severity of any collision.
It’s bad enough that a local reporter got it wrong and gave children and parents the wrong advice in a mistaken attempt to improve back-to-school safety. What’s worse is that the statement came in the middle of a quote from a California Highway Patrol officer.
At best, it appears to give official support for the reporter’s error. At worst, it suggests that the officer in question is badly misinformed about bike law and safety, and offering advice that could put children at risk.
Hopefully, they’ll make a correction soon. Before anyone takes their advice.
And maybe they’ll talk to someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about before making a similar mistake again.
Update: As of 12:30 today, KFMB still has not corrected their report, despite promising several people who contacted them that they would do so. As a result, I sent them the following email.
Dear Adrienne Moore —
I’ve heard from a number of people who have contacted you today to correct the dangerously false advice given in your report “Avoiding a big danger kids face on way to school.” They wrote you to asking that you correct the suggestion that children riding bikes should ride against, rather than with, traffic.
This is both illegal, as California law requires that all cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic, and dangerous because it reduces reaction time for the cyclists and for motorists rushing towards them. There is no valid authority that advices riding against traffic in the U.S.; however, the placement of the statement within the discussion by CHP Officer Brian Pennings suggests that he provided you with that information.
If he told you that cyclists should ride facing traffic, he is wrong, and this gives you an opportunity to both correct his error and inform the general public how to ride safely with traffic. If not, you have done the CHP a disservice by suggesting that Officer Pennings is unaware of one of the most basic laws governing cycling.
Your continued failure to correct this advice puts the lives and safety of children at risk. I must insist that you offer a full retraction immediately before anyone is injured or killed as a result of your error; simply correcting the story online will not be sufficient to remedy the damage that has been done.
Update 2: I haven’t received a response to my email; however, the video report has been re-edited to say that pedestrians should walk against traffic, and skateboarders and bicyclists should wear a helmet. However, the online print version of the story still has not been corrected, and as far as I can tell, no effort has been made to correct the misinformation given all the people who may have heard or read the original report.
Update 3: I received a response from Adrienne Moore, the reporter who covered the story for KFMB, who apologized for the error and said the story had been corrected. However, the online print version still has not been corrected as of 10 pm August 23rd.