The dangers of wrong way cycling

Dear Street Smarts, Q: There have been two letters to the editor – from the same person – telling people it is safer for bicyclists to ride facing traffic. I think someone with bike expertise needs to address this misconception in a Street Smarts column. Debbie Bulger, Mission: Pedestrian A: This is a popular debate. Read on: Q: After reading recent comments in the newspaper as to whether cyclist should ride with or against traffic, I have to agree with the writer that stated that if a cyclist is riding in the opposite direction of traffic, both parties can make eye contact. It seems logical to me to have both parties be aware of what is in front of them. Is there a reason why the law isn’t changed? Thank you, Elana Ross, via email A: Local law enforcement says wrong way cycling is a bad idea, both because it's illegal, but also because it's dangerous and can lead to injury and death for the cyclist. “I understand there are some that have reasons for why bicyclists should travel against the flow of traffic,” said Deputy Chief Steve Clark of the Santa Cruz Police Department. “But the current state of the law does not allow for it.” California Vehicle Code section 21650.1 states that “A bicycle operated on a roadway, or the shoulder of a highway, shall be operated in the same direction as vehicles are requires to be driven upon the roadway.” Besides being against the law, riding against traffic is unsafe for the cyclist, Clark explained. “My main concern is the increased potential for a collision and serious injuries to the bicyclist,” he said. “Traffic control signals such as stop signs and signal lights are designed to control traffic traveling on the correct – right-hand – side of the roadway. When riding on the wrong side of the roadway, these controls can be missed by the rider. More concerning, is the scenario of traffic pulling out from a driveway or side street.” Clark urged drivers to think about where they look when making a right turn. “Typically, drivers will look to the left to watch for oncoming traffic and find a space to safely pull out. I have investigated many collisions where bicyclists coming from the right while traveling the wrong way were not seen by the car driver because the driver’s attention is toward the potential oncoming traffic.” These collisions are usually head-on crashes or those in which the cyclist broadsided the automobile. The CHP has the same concerns for cyclists riding in unincorporated parts of the county. “Sadly, I have seen a few collisions involving kids whose parents had advised them to ride against traffic,” said officer Sarah Jackson, agency spokesperson. “Injuries range from scrapes and bruises to broken legs or head injuries. The CHP also responds to crashes in which the driver was distracted or impaired and drifts into the bicycle lane, resulting in major injuries or even death, Jackson said. Here's a YouTube video showing a wrong way cyclist striking a pedestrian who wasn't expecting him to be there. The pedestrian was crossing a one way street mid-block when a cyclist heading opposite traffic hit him. No cars were there to threaten his safety, but the bike was: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfUnwynwZvE. Perhaps the man shouldn't have been jaywalking. Perhaps the cyclist should have gone the correct direction. What do you think?  
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