Cyclists Get Blamed for Accidents More Than Drivers

bike_crash.jpgTriathlon coach Mark Evans describes the relationship between Bay Area cyclists and motorists this way in an article from Saturday's Chronicle: "There is a juggernaut out there – the tension between the cyclists and drivers is so high that it's become a war." The Chron reports that cyclists are twice as likely to take the blame for causing collisions. Cyclists were found to be at fault in sixty percent of accidents in 1997. Some bicycling advocates think the disproportionate numbers point to an inherent bias:

"There is a prevalent perception among police officers that bikes don't belong on the road," said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
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Others point to some cyclists propensity to run red lights, yell at motorists and generally ignore the rules of the road as the root causes of many accidents. Then there's this veiled reference to Critical Mass:

Groups of dozens or even hundreds of bicyclists sometimes take over the roads, blowing through stoplights and disobeying signs, she [Susan George, town manager of Woodside] said. At the same time, some motorists retaliate aggressively, tailgating the bicyclists, honking at them and trying to force them off the road.
Berkeley police have reported increased incidents of "road rage" sparked by disputes between cyclists and drivers and hit-and-run deaths are on the rise, too: "Hit and run drivers killed four cyclists and severely injured 26 others in 2006- significantly more than any other year in the past decade." Anybody who regularly rides a bike in the Bay Area has probably picked up on the tension between cyclists and motorists. And it is true that some riders chronically disobey traffic laws. But it's also true that a lot of drivers out there seem to think that bikes don't belong on the road at all. Yes, cyclists should obey traffic rules and hipsters should start wearing helmets, but the fact remains that you can kill somebody with a car a lot easier than you can with a bike -- drive accordingly.-Andy Wright


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