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Bike Collisions are on the Rise in Los Angeles County

Mar 29, 2011 by Lisa Newton

From 2000 to 2008, in Los Angeles County, there were 1,982 bike collisions, which resulted in 229 biker deaths. This information is from the TIMS, a Transportation Injury Mapping System, which was established by researchers at the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, at the University of California, Berkeley.

Using their mapping technology, of the 1,982 collisions, 1,856 are represented in the screenshot below:

The red icons represent over 100+ collisions in that particular area, the yellow represent those below 100 collisions, the green about 50 collisions with the aqua symbolizing about 10 collisions and the blue is one collision.

For an even closer look, I was able to export the data to a Google Map. Although it looks a bit overwhelming, any specific intersection can be zoomed in on to see the particulars. If you click on one of these icons, you’re able to see detailed information about each accident:

View Larger Map

The bad news is that bike collisions are on the rise:

In 2000, there were 232 accidents involving a bike, with 28 resulting in the death of the rider; but in 2008, bike collisions rose to 252, with 33 ending in a fatality.

I don’t know why we haven’t figured out that bikes are part of our road culture here, and deserve the same rights and privileges of the road. Even though most of California is car centric, there’s room for everyone.

After researching the policies of “Right of Way” and the “Road;” and according to the American Safety Council:

The law gives the right of way to no one, but it does state who must yield (give up) the right of way. Every driver, motorcyclist, moped rider, bicyclist, and pedestrian must do everything possible to avoid a crash.

Now, it would seem to me that the greatest responsibility to “avoid a crash” goes to the biggest vehicle, aka the one that can do the most damage–which is the motor vehicle.

I realize accidents will happen. That’s just part of being human, but many accidents can be avoided if drivers took more responsibility for their driving, really looked at where they were going instead of texting, talking on their phones, putting on their make-up, etc.

Just the other day, I saw the driver of a street cleaning machine talking on his phone while doing his job. Does that sound like a driver who is concerned for the other people he shares the road with?

It’s not rocket science.

It’s about saving a life, which could be yours.

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Culture, Los Angeles, SoCal

8 Responses to “Bike Collisions are on the Rise in Los Angeles County”

  1. mcas says:

    I think you are overlooking a really important fact, and a basic analysis of any set of annualized data — population growth. Since 2000, there’s been a huge boom in biking in LA. Every time I come to visit, I see more and more people riding.

    So, if there was a 1% increase in crashes over these 8 years, but ridership is up by 2% or more, then aren’t crashes actually ON THE DECLINE…?


    Lisa Newton Reply:

    @mcas, I did think of that, mcas, but I also assumed drivers and automobiles were on the rise, as is our population.

    I’ll dig further into the figures to discover the proportions.


  2. sautedman says:

    This is hardly a strong analysis. Rising bike crash rates can be attributed to more bikes on the road as well. A more useful statistic would be “amount of crashes per 1,000 bike-miles”. If that has been rising, then we should look for a cause.

    We may not be able to pin it all on cars though. Its not like our population is impeccable either. There are cyclists who:

    text while riding
    don’t use lights or reflectors
    don’t use brakes
    listen to music
    ride against traffic
    treat stop signs as “stoptional”
    ride without hands

    Some of these behaviors are outright bad decisions. Others are mostly safe for now. But with a significant increase in the cycling population, these will become much less safe. For instance, I bet that the likelihood of two cyclists crashing will increase dramatically due to maintaining high speeds through stop signs or riding against traffic.


    Lisa Newton Reply:

    @sautedman, I totally agree with you, sautedman. I’ve seen bike run red lights, with no concern for the cars that are also at the intersection, texting while riding, and bike not using lights, although I’ve never seen a bike riding against traffic.

    I never stated that bikes are not part of the problem. There is definitely room for improvement.

    Now, having said that, cars, being larger, faster, and much more prevalent, still bear a large responsibility in the area of bike safety.


  3. sautedman says:

    As you look deeper into the figures, would you mind finding what the percentage of fatalities per crashes is? For the eight year period of 2000-2008 we have an 11.5% death rate, in 2000 it was 12.1% and in 2008 it was 13.1%. I would like to know if crashes are getting more deadly. We will be able to tell that if there is a rise that is more than the typical fluctuation over the period.


    Lisa Newton Reply:

    @sautedman, Here is the breakdown for the death percentage:

    2000 – 12%
    2001 – 9%
    2002 – 10%
    2003 – 13%
    2004 – 9%
    2005 – 12%
    2006 – 13%
    2007 – 13%
    2008 – 13%

    It is on the rise, but still not a significant change.


    sautedman Reply:

    @Lisa Newton, It looks like it isn’t rising at all. If you are a bike rider in LA, if you crash (with a car?) you have a ~1/8 chance of dying! Of course, this is assuming that there are no unreported crashes, which is almost certainly false… maybe your odds improve to 1/10?

    Those odds are terrible. Here are some ways you might be able to help yourself out there (since accidents do happen):

    Don’t ride on a busy street. From we see the following:

    In the Cross-Fisher study, more than half of all fatalities were on roads with posted speed limits greater than 35 mph, even though less than 20 percent of all collisions occurred in that fast traffic (Cross, 1978, p. 40). A more recent study of fatal accidents in Victoria, Australia, closely matched these findings (Hoque, 1990, p. 4).

    The United Kingdom Department of Transport has provided a more dramatic illustration of the difference speed makes. The department determined that when pedestrians are struck by cars traveling at 20 mph, only about five percent are killed and most injuries are slight, with 30 percent of the walkers left virtually unscathed. At 30 mph, though, 45 percent are killed and many seriously injured. Cars zipping along at 40 mph kill 85 percent of the pedestrians they strike (Bicycle Federation of America, 1993b).

    Make yourself visible at night/dusk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has data that shows that even though more people die in crashes that happen during daylight hours, the greatest concentration of deaths is between 4 pm and 8 pm (26% in 2008) and 8 pm and midnight (22% in 2008). An ounce of prevention …


    Lisa Newton Reply:

    @sautedman, Thanks for the great info, sautedman. The more knowledge gained, the safer the ride.

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