Los Angeles has been through a lot this year. But one unintended consequence of all the restrictions and disruptions to our lives could show city leadership how L.A. could finally become a bike-friendly city in 2021 and beyond.
Through November, the LAPD reports that bicycle accidents are down 70 percent compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, bike use exploded in the city. The number of bike trips rose by an estimated 52 percent in September, compared with the same month in 2019. That same month, the LAPD reported just 18 bike accidents – the fewest the department has ever recorded. To compare, in September 2019, there were 185 bicycle-related crashes in L.A.
Why this unexpected good news?
Much of this unusual trend can be explained by the reduction in auto traffic due to so many people working from home this year. However, traffic has been slowly increasing since the first “safer at home” order in March. And the increase in bike traffic would suggest that more riders would be at risk of being hit by a car or truck. So there must be more going on.
Another thing that could be contributing is L.A.’s “slow streets” initiative on local streets. Programs like this, which creates more space on the roads for pedestrians and cyclists, could be expanded to include more residential and commercial areas and made permanent. In higher-traffic parts of town, expanding dedicated bike lane routes would also help, as would making sure bike lanes are clearly marked and separated from auto lanes.
Long-term change is possible
In other words, the positive bicycle accident numbers from this year do not need to be a blip from a difficult year. Dedication to protecting riders from negligent motorists in L.A. would help change the city’s poor reputation for bicycle safety.