Bicyclists carry a disproportionate burden on road safety. Rather than confront many of the root issues involved in bike safety, policymakers often place the responsibility squarely on bikers, ignoring the role drivers and pedestrians play in road safety. And the problem is getting worse.
Last year, California’s biking injury and fatality rates hit a new milestone—biking fatalities are now the highest they have been in 25 years. But policy makers are slow to respond. Despite new pushes for bike safety, the systemic issues at play remain largely unaddressed.
Adapting our roads for bikes
Road maintenance is always a safety issue for bikers. A small pothole or loose gravel has very little impact on a large, four-wheeled vehicle like a car. But, for a bike, an unrepaired road can very quickly lead to a catastrophic accident.
California has made major strides by creating bike lanes and pathways. Many bikers, however, opt not to use major roadways. In addition to the substantial repair work already underway, the state needs to pay attention to highly biked areas that see little car traffic.
Enforcing safety laws
New safety pushes in the Santa Clarita Valley can offer a model for California at large. After the release of last year’s bike safety data, area officials and police are opting to push for more enforcement as a way to increase safety. As we wait to see how these new enforcement policies impact the biking community, law enforcement officials and other policymakers should continue to encourage drivers and bicyclists
In education and enforcement, the League of American Bicyclists gave California a B grade in its most recent evaluation. This means that we have room for significant improvement. Our state needs to continue to push educational efforts that help create safer roads.
Until the state fulfills its roles in these areas, biking accidents will continue, and we will see more biking injuries.