Things may be looking up for SoCal cyclists.
As noted at the end of last night’s story about the heartbreaking death of a 13-year old bike rider in Boyle Heights, bicycling fatalities are down significantly compared to this time last year.
Through March 11th, just eight bike riders have been killed in the seven-county Southern California region. That compares to 25 in 2014 — over three times as many — in what turned out to be a very bad year, with 85 bike riders losing their lives.
Although I hesitate to use the word “just” when even one death is one too many.
Yet even last year was an improvement over 2013, when 89 people died riding their bikes in Southern California — the highest total since at least 2005.
Which raises the question of whether California’s new three-foot passing law making a difference.
Though it’s too early to tell.
There has been a significant reduction in bicycling fatalities since the law took effect in September of last year.
From September, 2014 through February of this year, 29 bicyclist lost their lives, all as a result of traffic collisions.
In the same period through the fall and winter of 2013-14, 45 bike riders were killed, all but three in crashes with motor vehicles.
However, the reduction wasn’t instant; as the chart below shows, it wasn’t until December that any improvement in bicycling fatalities became apparent.
Which suggests that it may have taken a few months for drivers to adjust to the new rules and start passing bikes more safely.
On the other hand, there’s no difference compared to September 2013 through February 2014, with 29 deaths in the same five month period.
So the jury’s still out.
A lot will depend on what happens from here, when spring and summer weather bring more riders, and more less experienced riders, onto the streets.
But it’s looking good so far.
Update: As Serge points out in the comments below — and I should have noted — correlation is not causation. While deaths are down since the implementation of the three-foot law, that does not necessarily mean it is responsible for the decrease.
The three-foot law won’t have any impact on left-cross collisions, for instance, or wrecks due to right-of-way violations.
The data simply isn’t there yet to tell what, if anything, is responsible for the decrease in fatalities; it may be just a temporary lull, as we’ve seen before.
But it’s a question worth asking, and one we’ll want to keep an eye on.