As everyone knows, 2020 was a year like no other in recent memory. One of the consequences of the lockdowns in California was that fewer people in Los Angeles commuted to work and school than in years. But the number of people injured or killed in bicycle accidents was virtually unchanged.
According to LAist, by late March 2020, daily motor vehicle traffic had plummeted by 70 percent. In April, traffic numbers were down 30 to 50 percent compared with the same month in 2019. Since then, traffic rates have slowly gone up but are still below normal levels.
You would think that if there are fewer cars and trucks on the road than usual, that there would also be fewer serious collisions with cyclists. But the effect of emptier streets in the L.A. area appears to have been very small, as far as bike safety is concerned. The number of fatal bike accidents was barely lower in 2020 than in 2019.
How did this happen?
It is probably too early to say for sure why bike crash numbers did not go down as much as traffic congestion last year, but there are some possibilities. For one thing, though fewer people were on the roads, those who did drive were more likely to speed than usual. Officials believe the empty streets gave speeders an excuse to drive way too fast. So when one of these speeders encounters a rider, they are more likely to fail to slow down or brake in time. Combine this with the boom in bike riding that began last year, and a possible explanation emerges.
Riders paying the price for motorists’ negligence
Whatever disruptions we are experiencing to our everyday lives, drivers still owe bike riders a legal duty to respect their safety. When they don’t, riders often pay the price.