Morning Links: An in-depth look at PCH bike wrecks, helmets make you blow up balloons, and they’re onto us

Let’s take a look at one of Southern California’s most popular riding routes.

And one of the most dangerous.

Ed Ryder* has taken a remarkable look at bicycling collisions on the coast highway, sifting through 12 years of SWITRS data complied by the CHP from 2004 through September, 2015. And by whatever name it’s known as it winds through San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles Counties, whether Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), Highway 1, Route 1, Coast Highway or Route 101.

Although you’d think someone, somewhere, would have the good sense to pick one name and stick with it.

As Ryder is quick to point out, local police agencies report injury collisions to SWITRS on a voluntary basis, which means it’s likely that some collisions don’t get reported, and therefore aren’t included in the database. In addition, data is still coming in from the years 2013-2015.

So all of these stats should be read as “at least;” actual figures may be higher. And the quality of information is only as good as what was included in their report.

Types of collisions involved in Ryder’s study include

  • bike vs. car
  • bike vs. bike
  • bike vs. pedestrian
  • bike vs. fixed/movable object
  • bike vs. animal


So let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

The most common type of wrecks were

  1. broadside collision, 34%
  2. undefined “other,” 23%
  3. sideswipe, 11%
  4. rear end, 9%
  5. striking an object, 8%,
  6. overturned, 6%
  7. collision with a pedestrian, 3%
  8. not stated, 3%
  9. head-on, 3%

The relatively low ranking of the last one may be due in part to the divided design of the highway in many places. And as he notes, when “other” and “not stated” reflect a combined 26% of the totals, it makes it hard to come up with solutions to prevent them.


Surprisingly, Malibu isn’t the most dangerous city for cyclists on the highway; even when combined with Los Angeles, they only rank second to Newport Beach, which is far and away the riskiest place to ride a bike on the coast highway. Only one city from San Diego County made the top ten.

  1. Newport Beach, 27%
  2. Long Beach, 16%
  3. Huntington Beach, 15%
  4. Los Angeles, 10%
  5. Malibu, 8%
  6. Encinitas, 7%
  7. Laguna Beach, 5%
  8. Oceanside, 5%
  9. Seal Beach, 4%
  10. Redondo Beach, 3%


Not surprising, however, is who or what is hitting people on bikes, or vice versa. The only surprise is that trucks rank so low on the list.

  1. Moving cars, 74.6%
  2. Solo crashes, 12%
  3. Other riders, 5.7%
  4. Parked vehicle, 3%
  5. Motorcycles, 1.8%
  6. Pedestrians, 1.8%
  7. Trucks, 0.8%


The good thing is it seems to be getting a little better out there.


As you would expect based on the earlier chart, Orange County leads the way in bike-involved collisions on the highway, followed closely by Los Angeles County.


Where fault was assigned, drivers got most of the blame in OC, and cyclists in LA, which could reflect the long-assumed windshield bias of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. San Diego County found more bike riders at fault, but blame was more evenly distributed than in the other two counties.


And with just a few exceptions, bicyclists were most likely to get the blame, regardless of the type of collision; only in the case of sideswipes were drivers most likely to be found at fault.


On the other hand, you’re more likely to be the victim of a hit-and-run in LA County.


There’s a lot more information in the report — 30 pages worth, in fact. All of it fascinating.

And all of it should be required reading for city and county officials, and anyone else concerned with improving bike safety on one of Southern California’s most scenic and vital riding routes.

You can download the full report here.

*Ed Ryder describes himself as just another bike rider who would like to help make our transportation infrastructure safer for the variety of people who use it, by providing decision makers quality quantitative information with which informed decisions can be made.

Update: An earlier version of this piece mistakenly relied on a previous draft of Ryder’s report, that has been updated to reflect the latest draft.


A new study shows that if you wear a bike helmet, you’re more willing to over-inflate a balloon than if you wear a cycling cap. And somehow, extrapolates that to mean you’ll take more chances riding your bike, too.

Sure, let’s go with that.


They’re on to us, comrade.

A writer with a severe case of windshield perspective in convinced bicycle riding is just a series of microaggressions stemming from our hatred automobiles and fossil fuels, and designed to physically obstruct traffic.

Never mind that most cyclists drive cars, as well.

All because bike riders in Minneapolis have called for lowering the speed limit a whole 5 mph in order to improve safety for everyone, including those behind the wheel.

Maybe he’d feel better if he got out of his car a little more.



A meeting will be held at 6 pm tonight at Venice High School to discuss LA’s Westside Mobility Plan. Show up to demand the bike lanes we were promised on Westwood Blvd, and other key routes in West LA.

LADOT Bike Blog offers a detour guide to get around the closures on the LA River bike path. If it looks complicated, don’t worry. It is.

The LACBC looks at how much bike and pedestrian funding is needed in a proposed transportation sales tax ballot measure, while Damien Newton talks with active transportation advocate Jessica Meaney about efforts to ensure the tax would be used to create stronger communities and address regional mobility needs.

West Hollywood moves forward with plans for putting bike lanes on Fairfax Ave between Fountain and Willoughby.

Better Bike reports the Biking Black Hole of Beverly Hills voted to make updating the city’s 1977 Bike Master Plan a priority for this year. The old plan, which was never implemented, called for routing bike riders through alleys in the downtown district.

Bike SGV is hosting a free two hour bike commuting and safety class this Saturday.



The Cal Health Report says, despite the Governor’s lofty rhetoric about climate change, his new budget focuses almost totally on cars and does virtually nothing to promote active transportation.

Family members remember Sidney Siemensma as someone who practically lived for bicycling, a day after his body was found on an Irvine bike path, the apparent victim of a homicide.

The madness continues in Coronado, where the city’s mayor refuses to do anything to improve safety on a dangerous street in apparent fear of self-multiplying traffic signals.

A Victorville bike shop lost nearly $13,000 of high-end bicycles in a burglary.

A judge rules 61 Santa Rosa homeowners have the right to ban bikes, but not pedestrians, from a pathway through their private development.

As expected, San Francisco’s mayor has vetoed the city’s proposed Idaho stop law; the SF Chronicle says it was the right move. Meanwhile, a state legislator tries to make running red lights more legal for motorists. Evidently, stop means stop only if you’re on a bike.



Bicycling says badass bike patches are back, and recommends five breeds of trail dogs for your next off-road excursion.

A new mountain bike advocacy group forms to fight for access to federal wilderness areas.

Good news from Colorado, as the USA Pro Challenge will go on as planned this year. Evidently, the Challenge refers to finding funding to support the popular, but money-losing race.

Boulder CO councilmembers demand more safety data before transportation officials install street treatments, only to remove them later.

Now that’s more like it. A bike shop in my hometown applies for a beer and wine license to serve suds to their customers.

People for Bikes says the Missouri proposal to require a 15-foot fluorescent flag on all bikes isn’t as funny as you think. I never thought it was funny, myself; idiotic, perhaps, but not funny.

A New York alternative transportation group says the city isn’t doing enough to stop traffic deaths, and at the current rate, won’t meet it’s Vision Zero goals until at least 2055.

A Baltimore letter writer says a recently painted bike lane won’t keep riders safe as long as it forces riders to switch lanes 15 times in 1.2 miles as it moves back and forth to accommodate parking.



Victoria BC merchants oppose bike lanes on a key street if it means the loss of parking spaces. Because as we all know, customers never, ever arrive on bicycles, and bike riders never spend money anywhere.

A Quebec coroner calls for side guards on trucks and more bike boxes, as well as making riders aware of the dangers of riding into a truck’s blind spot.

A writer for the Guardian wonders why Rapha is the brand so many riders love to hate. Meanwhile, another writer considers the propriety of wearing Lycra into the office following your commute.

Caught on video: Evidently running out of things to be offended by, the British press is shocked! shocked! when a bike courier goes on a profanity-laced tirade at the cab driver who ran over his bicycle — two months ago. As the owner of another currier service pointed out, while his reaction may have been over the top, the rider had a right to be upset since it could have been him under the van.

The former Governator plans to ride the streets of Edinburgh before attending a $2100 per plate black-tie dinner.

A tech website looks at Norway’s 450-foot long bike elevator.



Your next bike shorts could tell you when you’re doing it wrong. You’re the reason they’re having trouble developing driverless cars.

And a Burbank burglary suspect kindly puts herself where bike thieves belong.



  1. Joe Linton says:

    I’ve said this before: the total number of collisions needs a denominator to be meaningful in comparing multiple cities. It’s possible that Long Beach may have higher numbers of collisions just because it has higher numbers of cyclists (or even more miles of PCH.) This doesn’t make it “worst” compared to other cities.
    For example: city A has 2 crashes on 100 miles of PCH, and city B has 1 crash on 10 miles of PCH. Raw data would say that City A with 2 crashes is the “worst” because 2 crashes is more than 1. Though city B is actually much worse on a per-mile basis.

    • D G Spencer Ludgate says:

      Joe: Actually, the denominator needs to be hours cycled or miles cycled…

    • bikinginla says:

      Ed Ryder forwarded this response, since he’s unable to comment directly:

      In terms of rough miles by County:
      LA = 62. OC = 32, SD = 65

      I would suggest an ideal denominator would be bike count per mile by City, so absent that – I am bound by absolute counts.
      If you have a preferred denominator available, I could re-run the counts and see what shakes out.

      • D G Spencer Ludgate says:

        Thanks for posting. I agree with your assumptions. Without doing a bike census, it is impossible to determine.

        Of course, PCH is roadie heaven. I ruined my knees doing big chain workouts in Malibu and Laguna…

  2. D G Spencer Ludgate says:

    Thank you Ed for compiling this and presenting this in a non-biased way. SWITRS is a great source for accident data. I have mined SWITRS data and have the analytical skills to do the analysis; but simply do not have the time. I am glad you made the time to compile the data.

    Quick question, could you also pull the CVC21202 and CVC21208 violations for the Bicyclists as Fault analysis? This may give some insight if there is an anti-cyclist bias in the reporting.

    • bikinginla says:

      Ed Ryder forwarded this response, since he’s unable to comment directly:

      CVC 21202
      Unknown LAC-2 OC-2 SD-0 Total-4 Percent 9.5%%
      Driver LAC-0 OC_0 SD-1 Total-1 Percent 2.40%
      Rider LAC-23 OC-6 SD-8 Total-37 Percent 88.10%
      Total LAC-25 OC-8 SD-9 Total-42

      CVC 21208
      Rider LAC-1 OC-0 SD-5 Total-6 Percent 100%
      Total LAC-1 OC-0 SD-5 Total-6 Percent 100%

      • D G Spencer Ludgate says:

        Thanks for mining this data. Adjusted for overall population, LA and SD are equal. Orange County seems to be less likely to blame cyclists. (But it most likely falls within one StdDev.)

        In the City of West Hollywood, we have a heavily used Door Zone Bike lane on Santa Monica Blvd. During 2013, about 1/3 of the motorist/cyclist accidents were found at fault of the cyclist via CVC 21202/21208/22350. During 2014 none (0) of the accidents were blamed on cyclists. (Yes, in 2013, a cyclist was right-hooked and was found at fault for riding too fast.)

  3. cdp8 says:

    Governator Update:

    Schwarzenegger nearly hit riding salmon in Scotland.

  4. Richard Fox says:

    Anecdotally, I do hear of fatal bike accidents on PCH in Newport Beach all too frequently. I stick to the scenic Back Bay Loop, and the beach trails when not crowded. You can connect to the Huntington Beach Trail, and on off times go full speed, never having to risk PCH. I talk about these routes in this interview: Ref=T3JhbmdlLzIwMTUvMDUvMjIjQXIwNjMwMg%3D%3D&Mode=Gif&Locale=english-skin-custom. It also all connects to the Santa Ana River Trail. Regarding PCH in Long Beach, that’s not the scenic coastal route through the city at all. I believe the scenic coastal stretch referred to as “blood alley” (for car wrecks) is in Seal Beach/Huntington Beach. And along the San Diego coast, it seems speed limits have been lowered and more sharrows/bike lanes installed, so hopefully that will help the stats there.

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