Approximately 2,700 Bay Area bicyclists injured or killed last year in motor vehicle encounters
By DONNA BETH WEILENMAN
More than 140 bicyclists are killed in traffic collisions statewide each year, said Officer Daniel Hill, public information officer of the Golden Gate division of California Highway Patrol. He said drivers need to observe the minimum three-foot clearance when passing cyclists.
It isn’t a suggestion – it’s the law, enacted in September by the Legislature, Hill said.
More people are using bicycles as a primary form of transportation, and others ride their bicycles for exercise or sport, Hill said. But encounters with motor vehicles injured more than 13,000 cyclists last year – 2,700 in the San Francisco Bay Area alone, Hill said.
Another 21 cyclists were killed in the nine-county area.
“It is our responsibility to ensure this number does not increase, and quite frankly, it is our responsibility to do all we can to prevent vehicle versus bicycle incidents from occurring,” Hill said.
According to the new law, if a motorist can’t give a bicyclist a full three feet of clearance when passing, he or she must slow to a reasonable speed and pass only when the cyclist won’t be hurt, Hill said. “Violations of this law are considered moving violations, and will add a point to the driver’s record.”
“I’m sure cage drivers are uninformed of this,” said Eric Amundson, a master mechanic who owns Pleasant Hill Cyclery, 1100 Contra Costa Blvd., Pleasant Hill.
“The ultimate goal of all these partnerships is to reduce the number of people injured or killed … within our communities.”
– Daniel Hill, California Highway Patrol
Those who shop in his store or bring bicycles in for repairs have told him about drivers on Mount Diablo who were nervous about being close to a road’s edge, and interfered with bicyclists by veering into the bike lane.
But that’s not the worst he hears.
“There’s a whole bunch of cyclists. They love Livermore,” he said. Yet he hears of at least one killed every year in that city.
He is busy working, but occasionally gets to ride recreationally with an informal group that is familiar with the area’s bicycle routes.
To help inform motorists about the new law, Hill said CHP has been increasing both its education and enforcement efforts.
“We have partnered with organizations like Safe Routes to School and other bicycle coalitions across the Bay Area,” Hill said.
“Through these partnerships, we offer safety rodeos and seminars to help cyclists stay safe on the road. These events enhance a rider’s skills, provide a forum for cyclists to learn more about safe riding habits and their requirement to adhere to the rules of the road, as well as tips to stay alive and thrive on the road,” he said.
One of these programs is “Don’t Rush Safety,” offered with the help of an Alameda county supervisor, Nate Miley, that county’s schools and the Alameda Sheriff’s Department.
“This campaign focuses on safe walking, bicycling, and driving around our schools through education efforts, public safety announcements, and directed enforcement, with the ultimate goal of keeping our children and cyclists safe,” Hill said.
“We have also partnered with 3footcycling.com, a nationwide advocacy group dedicated to informing the public about bicycle safety laws across the country,” he said.
“In partnership with 3footcycling.com, (CHP) Golden Gate Division has developed warning letters that are sent to drivers seen violating the Three Foot Law and other bicycle-related laws,” he said.
Those letters aren’t meant as punishment, he said. Instead, Hill said, they’re designed to educate motorists about being safe around those on bicycles.
“The ultimate goal of all these partnerships is to reduce the number of people injured or killed while riding bicycles within our communities,” he said. “Through focused enforcement, education, and outreach efforts, we can make the Bay Area a safer place to travel for all.”