Volunteers watch, log cyclist behavior countywide

From May 15- June 15, the Community Traffic Safety Coalition's members are fanning out to intersections and schools countywide to watch and record the behavior of cyclists. Armed with clipboards and the parameters for conducting the 2014 Bicycle Observation Survey, these volunteers are logging the apparent age and gender of cyclists they see, as well as whether helmets were worn, stop signs were obeyed and sidewalks were used. Volunteers also are marking whether cyclists rode in the same direction as traffic while making notes on other things the cyclists did, such as used hand signals, rode in the crosswalk and/or walked their bike up a hill. While the survey has been going on for years to track cyclist behavior, as well as is used to develop future bicycle safety education campaigns, this is the first year Street Smarts was able to volunteer. This past weekend, I watched bike riders young and young at heart traverse the intersection of 7th Avenue and East Cliff Drive. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, as the foggy morning turned to a sunny and breezy afternoon, 123 cyclists went through this intersection. Of them, 114 were adults while 5 appeared to be young adults, one gal looked like she was a teenager and three youngsters rode with their parents. Of the entire lot, 84 were male and 39 were female. Of the men, 43 wore a helmet while 41 did not. Amongst the women, 22 donned helmets while 17 went bare headed. The weekend road warrior racer types were more likely to wear helmets than the recreational rider in shorts and a tank were. When it came to stopping at stop signs that decorates the three-way intersection, 34 cyclists, or about 27 percent, stopped, while 25, or 20 percent, did not. Breaking it down by gender, 21 men stopped, while 19 others did not. Of the women, 12 stopped while six did not. The one scenario that will not leave my mind is a father with two children riding on their respective bicycles behind him. He led his charges through the intersection along westbound East Cliff Drive's coastal route without stopping at the stop sign. He was not wearing a helmet and was yelling at his son, who brought up the rear, to follow closely to his sister, who filled the gap between father and son. The young boy stammered in the bike lane as cars approached, his father yelling at him to keep up. All three meandered through the busy intersection without stopping, with dad zigzagging as he did his nagging. If I were to decide where to spend bicycle education dollars, based on my observations at this intersection, I would launch a campaign to appeal to parents. Be the rider you want your kid to be. Follow all rules of the road and while adults aren't mandated to wear helmets, put one on anyway. If you gt get by a car, whether you were following traffic laws or not, your brain will be toast if your head hits the car, pavement or some other object hard enough. Your kids need you. A helmet is an inexpensive investment compared to the alternative. Other observations: All morning long, motorists were very aware of the cyclists traveling around them and often yielded the right of way to left-turning riders. On two separate occasions, a man and a teenage girl rode in the crosswalk to make their respective left turns, with the male going the wrong way through the intersection. One solo rider traveled the entire length of westbound East Cliff Drive, in the wrong direction. As for the yield signs, 64, or 53 percent, cyclists made legal right turns there with no problem. In fact, in two separate occasions, a couple riders got off their bikes after making the right turn from westbound East Cliff at 7th and walked them up the hill with their bodies on the sidewalk and their ride in the bike lane. The results from the entire Bicycle Observation Survey will be released later this year. View the results of previous surveys at http://www.sctrafficsafety.org/safe_info.html. Click on "Safety Info" and scroll down.
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