We’ve written before about the uninspiring results of Los Angeles’ Vision Zero – an ambitious plan to reduce the danger cyclists and pedestrians face on the road. So far, it has fallen well short of expectations. As city officials take a moment to review what happened in 2019, it is clear a crucial problem remains: distracted drivers.

Authorities single out cellphone use

According to a story by the Los Angeles Times, 134 pedestrians and 19 bicyclists were killed in traffic collisions in 2019. While total traffic fatalities fell ever so slightly (by 0.8%) compared to the year prior, the overall picture is grim. Since Vision Zero was enacted five years ago, traffic deaths are actually up 33%.

In the story, authorities are quick to point the finger at drivers who text or make calls while behind the wheel. LAPD Chief Michel Moore said motorists might be going 30-50 mph when they take their eyes off the road to check their phone – and suddenly, they’ve traveled 100 yards and hit somebody.

Adult drivers, he added, are also “teaching a generation of children today in the back seat what to do with that cellphone.”

That was echoed by John Yi of Los Angeles Walks. Even when non-motorists have the right-of-way, Yi told the paper, it does not mean they are protected from an inattentive driver.

“Just look at a three-ton vehicle that’s moving at a high speed, versus me, a bag of flesh who weighs 130 pounds,” he said.

What can cyclists do?

The city has promised further aggressive changes, including the addition of more protected bike lanes and intersection infrastructure they say will help. But even with those long-overdue improvements, cyclists may find themselves at risk, particularly due to distracted drivers.

Bikers can certainly take steps to protect themselves. But officials’ concerns over driver cellphone use combined with the disappointing traffic fatality figures make it clear many of these incidents are not the fault of bicyclists, but instead, the people around them.