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Bicyclists Share Fault in Serious Crashes, Data Show

By Jorge Casuso

December 14, 2023 -- Bicyclists and motorists involved in serious crashes since 2010 have both been almost equally at fault, while the number of incidents has plummeted, according to City data.

Of the 72 fatal and severe injury (FSI) crashes between January 1, 2010 and November 16, 2023, the cyclist was determined to be at fault in 26 of the crashes and the motorist in 31.

(Charts courtesy of the City of Santa Monica)

In the remaining 15 incidents no fault was determined for either the driver or the cyclist, according to data provided to The Lookout by the City.

"The statistics underscore that it is imperative that all roadway users follow the rules of the road, act predictably, look out for one another, and slow down," said Jason Kligier, mobility manager with the City's Transportation Department.

Kligier noted that since 2010, the number or yearly FSI crashes involving cyclists has been "consistently on a downward trend, despite a major increase in bike traffic during that time."

The number of "injury-causing crashes" involving cyclists has dropped -- from some 150 in 2012 to 72 this year, the data show.

Injury-Causing Crashes

"This trend of more pedestrians and cyclists, coupled with the decline in overall crashes and the flat average in FSI crashes points to a success of our work, as more cyclists and pedestrians should otherwise equal more crashes," Kligier said.

City officials attribute the drop in serious bicycle-related accidents to the three-pronged approach at the center of its Vision Zero effort -- engineering, education and enforcement.

Adopted by the Council in February of 2016 after a string of fatal crashes the goal of the "Vision Zero" policy is to end all fatalities and major injuries among users of City streets in coming decades.

"On the engineering side, we're doing everything we can to make our streets safe by increasing visibility and separation between different kinds of roadway users," said Tati Simonian, the City's Public Information Officer.

The City also has been installing raodway features that "encourage drivers to be more mindful to share the road," she said.

"On the education side, we have been proactive on amplifying messages related to traffic safety through our Take the Friendly Road campaign," Simonian said.

"Community members will also begin to see and hear more on ways to keep safety in mind, whether they’re biking, scooting, driving or walking.

"And we work closely with our partners in the Police Department to strategize and implement the most effective tactics around enforcement."

SMPD traffic officers routinely hold bicycle safety operations that focus on the most dangerous driver behaviors, which include speeding and making illegal turns.

7 Bicycle Safety Operations Held Since September 1, 2023
Bike Safety Operations

In the seven police safety operations held since September 1, there were 97 citations given to motorists and 35 to cyclists, according to Police Department data.

"We want to make sure everyone is following the rules," said Lt. Erika Aklufi, the Police Department spokesperson.

"You're still talking about a person piloting a vehicle, and humans make bad decisions, whether they're in a car or on a bike," she said. "We want to give everyone the best shot possible."

Spurred by the death of a bicyclist in October, the Council last month took additional steps to eliminate all crashes that seriously injure or kill bicyclists and pedestrians ("Council Takes Steps to Curb Collisions Involving Cyclists, Pedestrians," November 17, 2023).

Councilmember Jesse Zwick, who spearheaded the discussion item, noted that the October 27 crash at 19th Street and Idaho Avenue marked the 12th bicyclist killed in LA County in three weeks.

"This is an epidemic of road violence," Zwick said. "There are more people murdered by cars than by guns or any other source in LA County and we need to do more."

Aklufi notes that in many cases the person behind the wheel often also bicycles around town. "These are the same people," Aklufi said. "A lot of us do both."

"Everybody needs to pony up and take responsibility for their own actions," she said. "It's unfortunate in these crashes that the vehicles always win."

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