When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, life changed across the country. People couldn’t go to the gym anymore and many people were working from home. Because participating outdoor activities reduced the risk of becoming sick, many Americans took up new hobbies. One of those was bicycling, which saw an increase of 26% increase in popularity in June 2020 alone.
However, with more riders came more risk of vehicle crashes, even though traffic levels were lower. In a report from Street Light Data, California remains at the top of riskiest states for bicyclists.
California: A risky state for bicyclists
The Golden State ranks 6th for the most number bicyclist fatalities per capita in the United States. Ahead of it are Florida (1st), Delaware (2nd), Louisiana (3rd), South Carolina (4th) and New Mexico (5th). California is 10th when ranking the riskiest states by most number of miles cyclists travel. California also saw a steep increase in the number of bicyclists killed in accidents from 2016 to 2018.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest reasons for the increase in bicyclist-vehicle crashes is that many motorists are driving while distracted. Another factor leading to more bicyclists dying in vehicle crashes is that more and more people are driving large SUVs. When a larger vehicle hits a bicyclist, more force is involved in the crash, causing more severe injuries or death.
How to increase safety for bicyclists
If you have become an avid cyclist over the last year, you may want to become a safety advocate. You could:
- Help advocate for laws that would protect cyclists.
- Demand better infrastructure, so bicyclists have more interconnected bike lanes to use.
- Report dangerous drivers.
- Follow the rules of the road.
For drivers, they need to avoid distractions while behind the wheel, especially using a cell phone. They also need to watch for bicyclists when parked, to avoid opening a car door and hitting a passing rider.
With many Californians seeing the benefits of commuting by bike or getting exercise while bicycling, it’s likely more bicyclists will continue to share the roads with drivers. If both bicyclists and motorists can see the value of better safety, it’s more likely California can reduce the number of deadly accidents for cyclists.