Saturday, February 13, 2010

Report: A Quarter of All Car-On-Bike-Crashes Are Hit and Runs

The following story was written by Damien Newton for Los Angeles Streetsblog on February 5, 2010.

(Image from LAPD via Westside Bikeside)

A new presentation on the causes and severity of bicycle crashes, available here after being hand-scanned by Enci Box, has been made available and analyzed at Westside Bikeside by Dr Alex Thompson. Amongst the results is the above chart showing that nearly one quarter of the reported bicycle crashes in the City of Los Angeles in 2008 were also "hit and runs." While this number is high, the news gets worse; these are just the ones that are reported and recorded. We've already seen that sometimes hit and run crashes involving cyclists aren't taken seriously, and other times the police report is just poorly done. However, as Thomspon notes, just getting our hands on these statistics is a step forward in the relationship between cyclists and the LAPD.

While having this data is a step forward, it can be somewhat confusing in its current form. For example, while it breaks down that roughly ten percent of collisions were caused by someone running a red light or ignoring a stop sign, it doesn't differentiate between crashes caused by aggressive cyclists or aggressive motorists. Hopefully that information is made more clear in an update promised in a couple of weeks.

Looking at the presentation, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition noted in an email that 25% of bicycle related collisions are due to wrong way riding. Considering that their own bike counts showed that fewer than ten percent of all riders are going in the wrong direction, this act is a major safety concern. While the LAPD claims to be working to better educate cyclists about this, which is surely music to Councilman Tom LaBonge's ears, the LACBC wants those outreach materials to be in English and Spanish to build off the success of the City of Lights Program. A sound idea.

It seems that since last December, when the Coalition was surprised to find out at a City Council hearing that it was working with the LAPD on their bicycle related educational materials to officers, that relations between the Department and the Coalition have improved. In a post at the Coalition's blog, Aurisha Smolarski reports on their collaborative efforts with the LAPD to crack down on bike thefts and improve the training of police when it comes to cycling. Currently, the Bike Coalition is working with the LAPD to help identify the most dangerous intersections in Los Angeles. You can help the LACBC help the LAPD through a variety of online tools: via Twitter @lacbc, Facebook, or through an interactive Google Map the LACBC has set up. In its first day online, the map got 600 views and thirty intersections tagged, so the Bike Coalition is now asking that people narrow their suggestions to places where there were actual collisions, not just places where it seems dangerous to drive.

I've already tweeted them that, "The intersection of Third and Fairfax, where the Farmer's Market is located, is a death trap waiting to happen." If for some reason it's easier for you to leave your nightmare intersection in the comments section, I'll make sure to forward your thoughts and experiences on to the LACBC.

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