The Bay Area’s 21st Bike to Work Day will be held on May 12, 2016. All nine Bay Area counties are expected to join the festivities with “energizer stations” that will provide refreshments, prizes, and bicycle safety information during commuting hours. The event takes place during National Bike Month, a nationwide celebration that is sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists.
More than 62,000 Bay Area residents use a bicycle as their primary means of travel to work. Since more than a million Bay Area residents live within 5 miles of their workplace, that figure may increase as more workers seek to avoid traffic congestion and the high cost of gasoline by relying on pedal power instead of automobiles.
Bike to Work Day should also remind drivers and bicyclists alike of the need for traffic safety. As personal injury attorneys, we are keenly aware that too many Bay Area bicyclists are killed or seriously injured in collisions with motor vehicles.
Where are the bike lanes?
Bicyclist advocacy groups are calling upon city officials in Berkeley to create a dedicated bicycle lane on Fulton Street in the wake of a near-fatal collision between a passenger car and a bicycle. Police say the driver, who may have been impaired by alcohol or drugs, dragged the 42-year-old bicyclist beneath his car.
The February 2, 2016 collision was at least the tenth since 2001 involving a car and a bicycle at the intersection of Bancroft and Fulton. The city’s Bicycle Plan has called for adding a bicycle lane to Fulton since its first incarnation in 2005, but the city is waiting until it finishes a study of traffic congestion. The rider advocacy group Bike East Bay argues that ten years is enough time to complete the study and implement the plan.
A similar controversy has roiled bicyclists in San Francisco, who risk their lives when they ride on Mission Street. While a “transit only” lane has been designated with red stripes, the lane is on the right side of the road where bicyclists normally ride. That causes confusion for bike riders, who technically aren’t allowed to use the transit lane but often find it to be the safest path.
Bay area bicycle collisions
In the absence of bike lanes, Bay area collisions involving cars and bicycles are all too common. On February 26, 2016, a bicyclist suffered life-threatening injuries after being hit by a car traveling north on Monterey Road in Gilroy. In December 2015, a 63-year-old bicyclist was killed in a collision with a driver in San Francisco’s Portola neighborhood. The driver was reportedly driving on the wrong side of the road.
Too many bicycle accidents involve hit-and-run drivers. On March 16, 2016, an 11-year-old boy in Santa Rosa was struck by a driver who stopped to check on the boy and then fled from the accident scene. Fortunately, the boy was wearing a bicycle helmet and was not seriously injured.
Less fortunate was the 44-year-old bicyclist who was killed by a hit-and-run driver on San Jose’s South Winchester Boulevard. The collision occurred on February 12. The accused driver was arrested several days later.
Hit-and-run drivers not only cause injuries, their irresponsible behavior may prevent accident victims from receiving the compensation to which they are entitled. While bicyclists may have some form of insurance coverage that will cover a bicycle injury claim, most bicyclists must depend upon the driver’s insurance to pay their medical bills and lost wages, and to provide compensation for pain and disabling conditions.
When insured drivers can be identified, personal injury and wrongful death claims can help victims (or their surviving family members) achieve a measure of justice. As the Bay Area Bike to Work Day approaches, however, all drivers should be reminded of the need to maintain a vigilant lookout to avoid the tragic consequences of colliding with a bicycle rider.