More bicycle safety education needed

Today’s guest column about bicycle safety is from the Community Traffic Safety Coalition, an organization that advocates for improvements to make all modes of transportation safer. In December, the County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency and the Community Traffic Safety Coalition released two reports -- one outlines data on injuries and fatalities for bicyclists in 2012 while the other summarizes the results of a bicycle observation survey conducted in 2014. Findings will be used to guide bicycle safety initiatives in the county. The most recent data available from the California Highway Patrol in 2012 shows 219 bicyclists were injured and one killed. Cyclists were reported to be at fault 46 percent of the time, compared to motorists’ 38 percent. The top collision factors blamed on motorists were improper turning, infringing on a bicyclist’s right-of-way, and improper passing. Top factors blamed on cyclists were unsafe speed, riding on the wrong side of the road and improper turning. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, Santa Cruz County ranked first out of 58 counties in the state for cyclists injured or killed in 2012. While the high number of cyclists in Santa Cruz magnify these rankings, it’s clear we still have work to do towards improving safety on our roads. In May and June of 2014, the coalition and other community partners completed a bicycle safety observation study, collecting data at 49 locations throughout the county. Of 2,786 cyclists observed, 72 percent were men and 27 percent were women. Female cyclists had a higher rate of helmet use than men, 67 percent versus 55 percent. The biggest increase in helmet use was with teens, from 39 percent in 2013 to 55 percent in 2014. Although helmet use has been steadily increasing since 2006 countywide, helmet use in Watsonville remains low at 20 percent compared to the rest of the county's 62 percent; 88 percent of all those observed rode with traffic. However, the number of cyclists who stopped at stop signs and red lights decreased among most age groups compared to previous years. “There are many factors that contribute to a safe cycling environment,” said Theresia Rogerson, a Health Educator with the Health Services Agency. “The data in these reports will help us educate cyclists and motorists alike about safe behavior on our roadways.” Find out ways to decrease the number of bicycle injuries and fatalities by attending Bicycle Traffic School. Originally developed for ticketed cyclists, this program is now available to the general public for $15. For information, call (831) 454-7551. To access the complete reports, email Theresia.Rogerson@santacruzcounty.us.
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