California Highway Safety Plan

State transportation departments are required by Federal law to have a “Strategic Highway Safety Plan” (SHSP) as part of an effort to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads.

California  includes bicycle safety a segment of overall traffic safety in the state SHSP.   Earlier this week, Caltrans updated their internal Information and Talking Points document to reflect important policy changes regarding pedestrian and bicycle safety.  Here are the bicycle safety talking points.  Via Jim @ CABO.

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Challenge Area 13:  Improve Bicycle Safety

Updated: 04/29/14

● Federal, state, and local governments and many businesses recognize the environmental, traffic, economic, and health benefits of bicycling for recreation and transportation as well as every person’s legal rights and responsibilities for bicycling on the roadway.  Over the past decade, policymakers and others have been promoting bicycle riding, linking it to clean air, a healthier population, and reduced traffic congestion.  

● Recent “Share the Road” campaigns, e.g. Shared Lane Markings/”Sharrows” & “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs, are educating road users on the concept that in many situations bicyclists may use a full lane.

● With the passage of AB 1371, to go into effect September 2014, California drivers are required generally to stay at least three feet away when passing bicyclists.

● California’s traffic culture has focused primarily on motor vehicles, leading the general public to believe bicycling should not occur on roadways. In April 2013, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) started a new campaign “Zero Tolerance for Drivers Who Disrespect Cyclists” to discourage life-threatening behavior toward cyclists. Former USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood stated, “We need to make sure people driving here have respect for bicyclists. Bicyclists have as much right to the road as they do.”

● There is a widespread misconception that it is up to the bicyclists to stay out of the way of motor vehicles and that bicyclists should ride on sidewalks – sidewalk bicycling is illegal in many cities and can lead to crashes involving motorists or pedestrians.

● With few exceptions, a person bicycling on the road is entitled to the same rights and is subject to many of the same responsibilities as a person using a motor vehicle.  Everyone must be aware of their responsibilities and be respectful and tolerant of each other on California roadways.

● California’s favorable climate and increased marketing of bicycling through events, such as the Amgen Tour of California and National Bike Month, have resulted in more recreational riding and bicycle commuting.  Ciclovia events (closing city streets to automobiles) encourage families with children and others to have fun bicycling.

● More young adults are choosing bicycles instead of a motor vehicle for more of their transportation needs.  Americans between the ages of 16 and 34 appear to be driving less than previous generations due to the high cost of driving and a greater interest in personal fitness and environmental stewardship. (U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Frontier Group)

● Immigrants are twice as likely as US-born Americans to travel by bicycle. (League of American Bicyclists and the Sierra Club)  It is essential to reach out by providing bicycling education and advocacy materials that meet the specific needs and cultural understandings of these communities.

● As policies encourage more walking and bicycling, there is a responsibility by all to provide facilities, activities, and educational opportunities to make it as safe as possible. It may be that the more people who use bicycles or walking, the safer the roadway travel environment will be for everyone.

● Bicycle fatalities in California increased 6.9 percent from 116 in 2011 to 124 in 2012 (FARS, 2014).

● Bicycle severe injuries in California increased 12.2 percent from 874 in 2010 to 981 in 2011 (SWITRS).

● In California in 2011, the statewide percentage of bicyclist fatalities was 4.1 percent of all fatalities, which is nearly twice the national average of 2.1 percent (FARS, 2013).

● Between 2009 and 2011 in California, fatalities involving bicycles accounted for 4.1 percent of fatalities overall and serious injuries involving bicycles accounted for 8.6 percent of severe injuries overall. This suggests that bicyclists are over-represented in fatal and injury crashes relative to their 1.1 percent share of trips in the State, (US Census American Community Survey).  Furthermore, fatal and severe injuries involving bicycle were 1.4 times severe than fatal and severe injuries overall.

● Between 2009 and 2011, collisions between bicycles and motor vehicles are more likely to occur on local roadways than the State Highway System. Specifically, 84.9 percent of fatalities involving bicycles and 89.4 percent of severe injuries involving bicycles occurred on a local road compared to 57.2 percent of fatalities overall and 64.3 percent of severe injuries overall.

● Over half of all bicycle-related injury collisions between 2009 and 2011 occurred in four counties: Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, and Santa Clara.

● There is a documented relationship between motor vehicle speeds and bicyclist collision severity.  A report titled, “Why We Are Stuck at High Speed and What Are We Going To Do About It,” by Sara Wright and Scott Bricker (February 2012), states that “as driving speed increases, so does the likelihood of getting into a crash, and the likelihood of injury or death for the people involved in the crash.”

● Bicycling is an increasingly important mode share in our transportation system.  However, many people do not bicycle due to concerns about safety.  Efforts to enhance infrastructure should occur in tandem with education and enforcement efforts.

● Road use should be safe for everyone.

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