Bike fatalities have increased in recent years in California. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 455 cyclists died in traffic accidents from 2016 to 2018. This was the highest number of traffic deaths of any three-year period in 25 years.
Recently, a popular high-mileage bike rider was killed at a roundabout in Lafayette, California. Joe Shami who is 86 years old had ridden almost 100,000 miles on his bicycle when he was killed in a traffic accident. Details of the accident are not known and the Lafayette Police Department is expected to take months before the Traffic Collision Report is completed.
Local cycling communities are rallying around this tragic death to make roads safer for bike riders. In an interview in March, Joe Shami said he wanted to make Bay Area back roads safer for bike riders. Some of the safety measures the biking community is asking for include adding turnouts on narrow roads so cyclists can pull over safely to let vehicle traffic pass, installing dividers to separate bike lanes on roadways, and enforcing existing traffic laws.
The safest place to ride a bicycle is a bike path separated from roads where vehicles are not permitted.
The narrow road up Mt. Diablo in Contra Costa County has many cyclists pedaling to the top and coming back down. Between 2010 and 2014 more than 100 vehicle-bike collisions occurred. This prompted the construction of 17 cycling turnouts on the road that are well signed so that both riders and drivers know a safe place to pass is just ahead. After the turnouts were constructed, only one bike-car collision has been recorded in two years by the California State Parks.
Drivers need to follow the 3-foot rule and give cyclists a wide berth. California Vehicle Code (CVC) §21760© defines the three-foot safety distance rule: “A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.” The law specifies the minimum safe distance, but sometimes more than three feet is required to ensure a safe pass. It is the driver’s obligation to ensure and maintain the amount of safe distance required under any particular scenario encountered by the driver.
Also, drivers should not cross double lines traveling uphill because they cross into downhill lanes used by cyclists which may result in a fatal head-on collision. Cyclists need to obey all traffic laws and not ride through stop signs, red lights, and pedestrian crosswalks. Strict enforcement of existing traffic laws to rein in both out-of-control negligent drivers and cyclists will make our roads much safer for riders and drivers.
R. Lewis Van Blois is a certified personal injury specialist handling serious accidents involving cyclists and drivers. Visit his website at www.vanbloislaw.com.
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