According to the Oakland Police Department, bicycle injuries are declining. While several factors contribute to the decline, a 2022 Oakland Bicycle Accident Study points to increased awareness and a rise in the use of bicycle helmets as the two main reasons behind the decline. Read on to learn what’s behind the reduction in bicycle injuries and what to do should you experience an accident or get injured while riding your bike.
Increased motorcycle awareness
A large part of the decline in bicycle accidents has been people’s increased awareness of maintaining safety while riding their bikes. According to the California Highway Patrol, there have been many accidents involving motorcyclists, although most of them involve vehicles. Many things can cause a motorcyclist to lose control, causing an accident. According to Mike Lorenz, president at SRAM, “Motorcycles and motorists share a flawed relationship because motorists don’t know about motorcycles and how important they are in our communities.” Motorists should be more aware of motorcycles driving down the street or coming from behind.
Increased safety use of bike helmets
Another reason the number of bike accidents is decreasing is that more people are wearing their bikes helmets. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 25% of cyclists who died in 2015 were not wearing helmets. In an article from JAMA, researchers from Columbia University and the University of Toronto found that bicycle helmet laws could reduce bicycle fatalities by at least one-third. According to a study by Virginia Tech, wearing certified helmets minimizes the chance of fatal brain injury by 88 percent. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends wearing helmets for children ages 1 to 18 or those riding a bicycle.
Increased awareness on how to ride more safely
There has been an increase in people’s awareness of how to ride their bikes without having injuries. For example, more laws govern which road they can ride and when they can ride on the street. These laws have prevented accidents between drivers and cyclists in the past.
In 2016 and 2017, there were several incidents where drivers got angry because a cyclist was cycling too fast. In one case, a driver deliberately hit a cyclist with her car in July 2016 after witnessing them riding without their helmet. The driver revealed that they once had a son killed by a cyclist in 2013. She said she would not have hit the cyclist if they had been wearing a helmet. These drivers were charged with felonies and faced prison time.
In June 2017, an angry driver on the street killed a bicyclist in a hit and run. Other drivers have also gotten into altercations with cyclists. A stranger approached a bicyclist riding in Oakland and said he would kill him because he didn’t want to see Berkeley “ruined.”
More education on bike laws
California has some of the nation’s strictest bicycle laws. If a driver is not concerned about how the law affects other road users, why should they be worried about what cyclists are doing? In California, a law says drivers should always pass cyclists at least 3 feet from their vehicle not to harm or hurt the cyclist. Even if it’s a one-way street, a driver must wait for traffic to clear before passing the cyclist. There have been many other cases where individuals who violated bicycle laws found themselves in jail for their actions. No wonder more people are learning to ride their bikes safely and responsibly.
Another reason why there are fewer bicycle accidents is because of increased bike activism and awareness through social media like Facebook and Instagram, as well as other channels including newspapers, radio, and even cycling websites. In Oakland, families of accident victims took part in cycling advocacy programs to prevent more motorist-bicycle crashes in 2017. There are now campaigns that promote safe cycling and encourage motorists not to be reckless drivers. Through bike advocacy groups, they can spread awareness on how to ride their bikes safely and improve safety on the road.
Berkeley bike safety program
Berkeley has created a bike safety program that teaches children how to ride their bikes safely in the community. Partnering with the Oakland Unified School District, they provide an additional 2,500 free helmets for students in Oakland schools as part of their Bike Safety Program. The program teaches safe riding techniques, dangerous behavior, and other safe cycling skills.
Bike safety awareness month
The City of Oakland made a new law for Bike Safety Awareness month in June of each year. This law aims to promote bicycle safety, raise awareness on how drivers can be safer on the road, and how cyclists can ride their bikes without injury.
In 2015, Mayor Libby Schaaf came up with an idea to make a proclamation that every June, they would have a month where they would focus on bike safety. The city reached out to various schools, organizations, and businesses throughout the community to get involved with creating this event. Some participating organizations were Bike East Bay, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and Kaiser Permanente.
There are many things people can do to help reduce the number of bike accidents and make the roads safer. It’s not just about the drivers or cyclists; it’s also about government agencies, schools, and other organizations being aware of how they can help promote bike safety in their community.
It may seem like there are more bike accidents than usual, but we must remember that more cyclists are on the road today than we have seen in previous years. As the number of cyclists sharing the road grows, so will the number of crashes involving vehicles and bicycles. The main reason why there are fewer accidents is that more people are making biking safer for everyone.