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Southern California Bicycle Law Blog

Cycling reduces road congestion and accident risks

There are plenty of personal benefits to cycling, such as promoting a healthy lifestyle and cutting down on gas bills. But have you ever thought of just how much good cycling can do for the population at large?

One benefit is that it reduces the congestion on California's notoriously busy roads. Every cyclist takes another car off of the road, freeing up space and opening up lanes for other traffic. Even if the cyclists end up using the same roads -- and they often don't, sticking to smaller roads while cars head for the interstate -- they take up less space and allow traffic to move smoothly.

Are bike lanes getting crowded?

Generally speaking, you have three lanes on a city street: The travel lane for cars, the bike lane for cyclists and the sidewalk for pedestrians. These keep different modes of transportation in their separate spaces to keep everyone safe.

However, some experts have noted that it's not always this simple. What do you do with skateboards? Where do you put those new electric scooters that are popular in many cities? They think we need to reconsider how we divide traffic.

Does a MIPS bike helmet help?

If you have been shopping for a bike helmet recently, you have probably noticed a lot of MIPS helmets. This is one of the newest technological advancements. It stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System.

The idea is to mimic the way that your brain protects itself with a slip plane. When there is an impact, the interior of the helmet can slightly rotate and move. This will hopefully cut back on the rotational damage caused in the crash, as the helmet rotates instead. That's important because scientists think that one of the main reasons for concussions and brain injuries is this rotational component.

Cyclists: how to handle road rage

As a cyclist, you may face aggressive drivers. Both verbal and physical aggression can be scary and dangerous. Road rage is always fear-inducing, but when you are on a bike you do not have the protection of a passenger vehicle. Even when road rage is not a factor, drivers are at fault in the majority of collisions involving bicycles and cars.

When you find yourself at the mercy of a raging motorist, you may now know how to react. Here are some suggestions on how to handle a driver with road rage

Don't turn through a bike lane

It is crucial that motorists understand that bike lanes are real lanes on the road. They need to treat them the same way that they treat any other lane.

For instance, imagine that you're driving on a two-lane highway. Both lanes go the same way. You are in the left lane, but you want to turn right. Clearly, you don't turn right from the left lane. You check to make sure that the path is clear, merge into the right lane and then execute your turn at the proper time.

Drivers think it's 'annoying' to pass bikes safely

Drivers are supposed to share the road with cyclists, and one of the most crucial issues is when a car has to pass a bike. At a time like that, drivers must give cyclists enough of a buffer zone to prevent an accident.

How big should that zone be? A law passed half of a decade ago says that drivers should keep three feet between their cars and the bikes. It's not an incredible amount, but it helps to prevent accidents and keep cyclists safe. It seems like a small thing to do to save lives.

Dangerous behaviors drivers engage in around bikes

Cyclists face a lot of risks on the road, especially when drivers do not respect them and take intentional actions to cause accidents or put them at risk. Drivers know that they're not very likely to get injured in a car vs. bike crash, and it makes them act aggressively and dangerously.

Of course, cyclists have a very high chance of suffering serious injuries or even getting killed in these collisions. To help you understand how wrecks happen, so that you may be able to avoid them, here are a few dangerous behaviors that drivers engage in from time to time:

  • Cutting off the cyclist, either because they do not see the bike or because they are in a hurry.
  • Brake-checking a bike, perhaps because they are frustrated with the bike's slower speed when compared to the cars around it.
  • Swerving toward a cyclist, which is often meant as a retaliation for some imagined slight -- even when the cyclist did nothing wrong.
  • Executing the "punishment pass" and driving far too close to the bike, which may also be a retaliation designed to scare the cyclist.
  • Engaging in road rage with the cyclist and driving dangerously and aggressively near them.

After National Bike to Work Week, consider accident statistics

National Bike to Work Week ran from May 13 to May 17. While the goal of the week was to get people to consider spending more time on their bikes, promoting cycling and reducing the number of cars on the road in California, it also served another purpose: drawing attention to just how dangerous biking can be.

In 2017, coroner's records show that 16 people lost their lives while cycling in Orange County alone. Last year, the number was at least 14. It seems like more than a dozen people get into these deadly accidents year in and year out.

As traffic fatalities drop, bikes get more dangerous

When you hear that traffic fatalities in the United States have declined, you probably assume that cyclist fatalities have gone down as well. It's all related and general safety on the road extends to everyone, right?

That makes sense, but the statistical trends actually show that the two can move in opposite directions.

Bicycle-pedestrian accidents: A cautionary tale

Any bicycle rider can become annoyed discussing the subject of car-bicycle collisions. Like motor vehicle operators, bicycle riders have their share of lawbreakers; however, because of the disparity in numbers, bicycle-pedestrian accidents are relatively uncommon. Most cyclists ride defensively, constantly watching for obstacles in their path. Bicycle riders are particularly cautious when riding near pedestrians since, with no warning, people on foot randomly veer in any direction. Adults are bad enough, but children are even more likely to run directly into the path of a bicycle.

When a bicycle rider does injure a pedestrian, the media abundantly responds. A bicyclist-pedestrian crash is a novelty—and an opportunity for news sources to inflame auto drivers' bias toward the "superior moral attitude" of cyclists. 

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