We recently posted about an alarming rise in pedestrian injuries in fatalities, both here in California and across the United States. The problem isn’t just limited to travelers on foot. During the pandemic, bicycling greatly increased in popularity. With the rise in bicyclists, the U.S. may also be seeing a rise in bicyclist injuries and deaths.
According to news sources, bicyclist fatalities have already been increasing over the past decade. Traffic safety advocates say that distracted driving, speeding and aggressive driving largely account for the increase. Between 2010 and 2019, bicyclist deaths in urban areas increased by 49 percent. And injuries far outpace deaths. In 2019, the CDC estimates, more than 143,000 riders received emergency-room treatment related to accidents with motor vehicles.
The one silver lining to this increased awareness is increased legislation to protect bicyclists. Since the beginning of 2021, eight states have passed or strengthened laws governing how drivers must behave while passing bicyclists traveling in the same direction. This is critical, as most bicyclist fatalities involve being struck from behind.
In total, 44 states now have at least some sort of safe-passing law on the books. California is among 35 states requiring at least a three-foot buffer when passing a bicyclist in a motor vehicle. Some states have gone further and require drivers to change lanes, when possible.
To be sure, laws are important. But those laws are only effective if enforced. And often, enforcement doesn’t occur until or unless someone has already been hurt. To really reduce injury and death rates will require a culture change and increased respect for bicyclists.
If you ride here in Orange County, please continue to take whatever measures you can to protect yourself, including wearing a helmet and reflective clothing. If you are struck, however, remember that you have rights – including the right to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver.