Causes of bike accidents in Long Beach — 10 years worth of data
As Long Beach becomes more and more bike friendly…and as we get more and more people to bicycle, we are also seeing an increase in the number of bike related accidents. Through our Share our Streets campaign we have been working to make both bicyclists and motorists more safety aware. You may have seen our banners…and our bus ads. Hopefully you have toured our website www.bikelongbeach.org and looked at many of the safety related tips.
To help make our campaign more effective we want to make people aware of the primary causes of bike related accidents in the city….and to let them know what they can do to be safer as a bicyclist and as a driver.
The number of bike related accidents is increasing – at a rate about equal to the rate of growth in bicycling.
As you can see from the chart below…the number of bike related accidents has increased over past 5 years. This is increase is coincident with the growth rate of cycling in Long Beach…which based on our bike counts doubled between 2008 and 2010.
While we have not done the statistical analysis it looks like the growth rate of accidents is slightly below the rate of growth in the number of riders, which is what we would expect. In other words while the number of accidents is increasing the actual rate is decreasing. This is certainly what is seen in other cities – when you get more bicyclists on the road…it is safer because drivers are more aware of the bicyclists and treat them with more respect. We are anxious to see our 2012 data to see whether this trend holds.
Major causes of bike related accidents
An analysis of Long Beach traffic accident data since 2002 has revealed five leading causes that make up more than 80 percent of all automobile-bicycle incidents:
- Bicyclist riding on the wrong side of the road against oncoming traffic;
- Bicyclist making an unpredictable and hazardous move (e.g., darts in front of a moving vehicle);
- Bicyclist running a stop light or stop sign;
- Motorist running a stop light or stop sign; or
- Motorist making a right or left turn in front of a moving bicycle.
Major causes of accidents are wrong way riding by bicyclists, right turns by cars and failing to yield by both
According to the Long Beach data about 45% of the bike related accidents in the city are caused by the bicyclist (35% are driver related and 20% undetermined).
As you can see from the chart below the number one cause of accidents where the bicyclist is attributed to be at fault is riding on the wrong side of the road. Over 30% of the accidents where the bicyclists is a fault can be attributed to this one cause.
The third largest cause, making up 15% of the accidents, is running a stop light or stop sign.
The forth major cause is what is termed “other hazardous movement.” This is the primary cause of about 12% of the accidents. That means the bicyclist most likely did something unpredictable…and got hit by the car.
These four behaviors are attributed to be the primary causes of over 75% of the bicyclist “caused” accidents. The other 25% is made up of things such the two shown here (improper turning and unsafe speed). Two of the others that do show up lower on the list are BUI (biking under the influence) and no brakes…presumably fixies with no breaks).
Accident caused by drivers
The Long Beach data suggests that about 1/3 of the bike related accidents in the city are caused by the motorist. As you can see from the adjacent chart over 40% of these accidents are categorized as either Auto Right-of-way violation or Pedestrian Right-of Way violation. In other words the driver pulled in front of the bicyclists (I’m implying here that when the report refers to pedestrian..they in fact are referring to the bicyclist). Another 15% is related to improper turning. And finally 12% is related to running a stop light or stop sign.
Another interesting piece of data is that in over 40% of all bike related accidents…whether they were attributed to the bicyclist or the driver… the driver was turning or entering the roadway. Almost 30% of the time the car was making a right turn and 10% a left turn. When combined with the data from the table above this strongly suggests that the single biggest cause of driver caused accidents is making right turns and in the process cutting of the bicyclist.
A final note – in just under 7% of the total accidents..the driver was stopped … which based on the data most often means that the bicyclists hit a parked car (oops).
From a safety perspective…bicyclists can at times be our own worst enemy. Almost 50% of all accidents that are caused by the bicyclist are related to either riding the wrong way or failing to yield the right-of-way to a vehicle. Our Share-our-Streets campaign has a big focus on these two issues. Clearly we are headed the right direction with the message “ride with the flow of traffic” and “courtesy counts.” This is also an area where we need to work with our law enforcement personnel to help change this behavior.
Recommendation to bicyclists…never ride against the flow of traffic!!!! And…yield to cars trucks….don’t assume they will see you.
For vehicle caused accidents the major issue is failing to yield right of way to the bicyclists and this is most evident when are turning and/or entering traffic. In other words driver cut off bicyclists and in doing so actually hit the bicyclists. Facilities such as our separated lanes go a long way to alleviate this problem. This is demonstrated by a drop of almost 40% in bike related accidents on the Broadway and 3rd bicycle corridor since the lanes have been installed. Our Share-our-Streets messaging of “slow when passing” and “courtesy counts” also target this issue.
Recommendation to drivers…don’t try and jump in front a bicyclists when entering traffic or when making a right or left turn. Be respectful and let them go before making your turn or moving into traffic.