(File under rabble rousing.)
Do you see what I see?
Of 77 collisions where police identified fault, 57 of them — or fully 74% — were caused by the cyclist. Compare to the entire Bay Area, where police reports show cyclists are supposedly responsible for 60% of accidents.
It gets even sillier when you look at the most common violation: “unsafe speed.” While 28% of cyclists were found to be riding at an “unsafe speed” when they caused the wreck, only a single motorist from 2004 to 2009 was driving at an unsafe speed when he struck a cyclist.
How ridiculous is that?
Alta Planning’s only commentary in the bike plan is a dry suggestion for enforcement: “The most common bicycle violations were riding at unsafe speeds and riding on the wrong side of the road. Unsafe speed violations indicate the need for additional enforcement.” Yes, really: we have “bike advocates” and people who specialize in bike promotion blaming the victim here in California. These same inept clowns also proposed a 10 MPH speed limit on the Golden Gate Bridge for “safety,” although they reported no real safety issue on the bridge for cyclists.
The report shows most collisions in Los Altos occur on Foothill Expressway, with real hotspots on Foothill at each of Homestead, Fremont Avenue / Miramonte, and Springer Road. A third of reported collisions occurred at these three intersections.
I guess I can kind of see how a cyclist zooming downhill in the bike lane on San Antonio Road might get cited for violating California’s Basic Speed Law after he gets hooked. It’s not right, but I can kind of see the thought process.
But Foothill Expressway? That’s a county expressway with few intersections, no driveways, and a 45 MPH speed limit. It’s a favorite for local road cyclists because most of this expressway has wide, smooth shoulders and few lights. I average 24 MPH when riding through Los Altos; other cyclists get well up in the high 20s. They’re hauling. But that’s still far short of the 45 MPH speed limit; the 85th %tile speed likely approaches 55 MPH between Homestead Avenue and El Monte Road.
Initial police reports and at-fault statistics.
Collision statistics like this come from the California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System” (SWITRS). SWITRS contains good information, but the ‘at-fault’ determination comes from the initial police report, which is just a guess. Actual liability is determined later, either through an insurance settlement or a formal investigation, if it even gets that far.
The “at-fault” statistics are thus faulty. This is why you won’t see me link to those silly Bay Area bike accident maps, because the information isn’t worth anything. You’d think Alta would at least know to footnote that kind of data.
Bike lawyer Bob Mionske has mentioned police bias several times in his columns, interviews and blog posts. A cycling attorney in Ohio, Steve Magas, believes he finds a pattern of police bias in accident reports in his state. He analyzed the data of 12,000 police reports from 2011 in his state and noticed an interesting anomaly: While police reports in many Ohio counties report cyclists at fault in about 50% of collisions (matching what we see statewide here in California), officers in Montgomery County Ohio report cylists at fault in 71% of cases.
I realize I’m a little unfair putting all of the blame on the Los Altos Police Department. Traffic collisions can be investigated by the California Highway Patrol, the Santa Clara Sheriff or the local police. Since cyclists cross city lines with ease throughout the Bay Area, though, why would the incidence of cyclists at fault be so much higher in Los Altos than elsewhere?
(I have inquiries in to the Los Altos BPAC about this for their thoughts and opinions. If I hear back from them I’ll update this post.)