The League of American Bicyclists recently ranked California third in the nation in bike safety. This is an increase from No. 8 in 2015, so the trend is positive.
Let’s not forget, however, that the number of fatal accidents is still way too high. California has the fourth highest per capita bicyclist fatality rate in the nation, with 6.7 fatalities per 10,000 bike commuters, based upon fatalities reported over a five-year period.
What does California have going for it on bike safety?
The League of American Bicyclists ranks states based on five criteria:
- Infrastructure & funding
- Education & encouragement
- Legislation & enforcement
- Policies & programs
- Evaluation & planning
In four of the five criteria, California received a dark green ranking. This indicates it is a top 10 state for those criteria. 2017 saw the state implement its first ever statewide bicycle and pedestrian plan, which was seen by the league as a positive step forward.
However, California still falls short of Washington and Minnesota, which are ranked first and second on being bicycle friendly. Under legislation & enforcement, California received a yellow ranking, which ranks it numbers 21-30 for those criteria.
What about bike lanes?
It’s true that California has many laws that create protections for cyclists and walkers. But the state also has more restrictions for those travelers’ behavior. One example is California’s mandatory bike lane laws, which The League of American Bicyclists says lowers the quality and safety of available bike lanes.
Mandatory bike lane laws undermine a bicyclist’s ability to protect themselves when those facilities are not well planned, designed and/or maintained. Accumulated debris and illegally parked cars endanger bicyclists, and left turns are more difficult from a mandatory bike lane. Contentious relationships between bicyclists, other road users, and law enforcement are also promoted through mandatory lanes. In a state that ranks lower in enforcement than nearly half the country, mandatory bike lane laws put California’s bicyclists at risk of injury.