Bicycles have become a far more common sight on the roads in California and around the country in recent years, which was leading to a worrying increase in cyclist fatalities before the pandemic hit. The number of fatal accidents involving bicycles had been rising steadily for several years, and the 857 cyclists killed on the nation’s roads in 2018 was the highest bicycle death toll in almost three decades according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Changes caused by the pandemic
When states, including California, started shutting down around the country, people began looking for ways to get out of their houses and safely get some fresh air. With stretches of quiet roads in every neighborhood, bicycling has seen a surge in popularity. Despite more bicycles on the road, some areas, such as San Diego County, have reported a decline in injuries to cyclists. Presumably, this is because there are fewer cars. We will need to see more studies before we know whether this trend extends beyond San Diego.
Does that mean the roads are safe?
Although roads have had fewer cars lately, that does not mean you should let your guard down while out on your bike. The same causes of injuries in cycling accidents still exist. According to the NHTSA, those include:
- Distracted driving- We all know that distracted driving is a problem for car crashes, but it is especially dangerous for bicycles because drivers are already less likely to notice a cyclist.
- Drunk driving- Alcohol consumption is identified as a contributing factor in about one in three fatal cycling accidents.
- Increased size of vehicles- As vehicles get bigger, they cause more damage in an accident. Cyclists have little protection.
- Aggressive driving- When a driver becomes impatient or irritated about having to share the road, the results can be alarming.
Some areas have also reported an increase in speeding and reckless driving during the pandemic. In addition, as the state begins opening back up, the drivers will be back on the road. That doesn’t mean you need to hang up your helmet, but you may want to be more vigilant about your own safety.