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Bicycle safety in Cerritos

Updated March 19, 2015

There is gathering momentum around the country to develop policies and programs that encourage people to get out of their cars and into (or onto) other forms of transportation. This is especially true in California, where civic activists, urban planners and elected officials are working hard to create more densely populated neighborhoods where cycling and walking would become the preferable mode of travel.

Los Angeles and nearby Long Beach are good examples of cities aggressively working to install more bicycle lanes to encourage the use of bicycles, not just for recreation, but also as a means of traveling to work. While bicycling is certainly to be encouraged, being aware of the risks and practicing some precautionary measures is critical to enjoying a safe riding experience.

The challenge in much of Southern California is how to make roads more bicycle-friendly while at the same time making them as safe as possible for cyclists. While there once were trolley cars in Los Angeles and one day there may be high-speed rail in California, automobiles will likely still be the primary mode of transportation for many years to come.

California is arguably the birthplace of large-scale automotive transportation planning and endless miles of freeways. Much of the roadway infrastructure was designed and constructed decades ago and long before anyone thought mixing fast-moving cars and bicyclists was a good idea and desirable public policy. Many major thoroughfares were not constructed with bicyclists in mind. Many have no shoulder area to put a bike lane. The new state law requiring motorists to give bicyclists a three-foot buffer zone will help, but it is certainly not a perfect solution.

Another element that increases a bicyclist's safety risk today is the problem of distracted drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) emphatically asserts that distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic on America's roadways. According to the NHTSA, there were 3,328 people killed in the United States by distracted drivers in 2012. In that same year, 726 cyclists were also killed (a six percent increase compared to 2011, and comprising 2.2 percent of all traffic fatalities). Another 49,000 cyclists were injured. For better or worse, equipped with so much technology today, automobiles have become modes of transportation in which many motorists fail to make paying attention to the road their highest priority.

These facts and the sobering realities of urban bicycle riding make safe cycling practices of paramount importance. All bicyclists should wear properly fitted bicycle helmets every time they ride (nine out of 10 bicycle fatalities involve cyclists without helmets). A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash. Bicyclists are considered vehicle operators and must obey the same rules of the road as motorists. Stop signs and signals apply to cyclists just as much as they do to motorists. Bicyclists must adhere to lane markings, let motorists know their intentions by signaling turns and always ride in the same direction as required in the traffic lane.

Visibility is also very important, so cyclists should wear bright clothing during the day and reflective clothing at night. Bicycles should be equipped with good lights, including both forward and flashing red rear-facing lights, so that motorists can readily observe them along with nearby cars and other traffic. Be particularly careful at intersections as a bicyclist can blend in with traffic, pedestrians and store lights and be difficult for motorists to see. If at all possible, make eye contact with motorists and be sure vehicles stop before making turns.

Never forget that bicyclists are vulnerable and always at risk. Your safety is up to you, so be alert, be careful and always practice these safe cycling tips.

 

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