San Luis Obispo County leads California in bike deaths

April 27, 2015


Motor vehicle crashes are a frequent sight for many California motorists, but state roads are also plagued with bicycle collisions, and the Central Coast is a leading contributor to the problem, data from the California Highway Patrol shows.

In 2014, five bicyclists died in San Luis Obispo County crashes, the CHP reported. That placed SLO County as the statewide leader in bicycle fatalities per capita.

Including fatalities, SLO County ranks number five among California counties for the most collisions per capita. The Central Coast counties of Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara are higher on the list. CalCoastNews excluded Alpine County in the rankings. Alpine County has a population of less than 1,200 residents, the smallest in the state, and it jumps to the top of the rankings if one or two bicycle crashes occur in a year.

bike wreckSanta Cruz County reported the most bicycle accidents per capita for each of the past three years. The population of Santa Cruz County is about the same as that of SLO County. Last year, Santa Cruz County reported 203 collisions. That was 81 more than SLO County.

Santa Barbara County trailed Santa Cruz County with 5.7 bicycle collisions per 10,000 residents in 2014. In 2014, the CHP received reports of 122 bicycle accidents in San Luis Obispo County. That equates to 4.5 bicycle crashes per 10,000 residents.

Third and fourth place went to Marin County and Yolo County.

As with San Luis Obispo County, Yolo, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara counties each have universities that bring in more cyclists and increase bike traffic.

San Francisco previously ranked among the leaders in bicycle crashes per capita, but the total collisions reported in the county dropped from 699 in 2012 to 185 in 2014.

Statewide, bicycle collisions have decreased over the past couple years. They peaked in 2012 after several years of slight increases.

Most bicycle collisions reported locally involve bicycles and cars, according to records obtained from police departments in San Luis Obispo County. Less often, law enforcement receives reports of single-bicycle crashes or bicyclists colliding with pedestrians or other bicyclists.

CalCoastNews requested CHP data on bicycle crashes after the series of fatal SLO County collisions in 2014. Those fatalities included a Los Osos woman who died while riding with her fiancé.

The data CalCoastNews obtained from the CHP includes the total reported bicycle collisions, as well as the numbers of injuries and deaths that resulted from those collisions. The CHP provided data spanning 2003-2014, and CalCoastNews calculated each county’s per capita collisions for the years 2012-2014.

As usually occurs, Los Angeles County had the most bicycle collisions and fatalities among California counties. CHP data shows 4,376 bicycle crashes and 22 bicyclist deaths occurred in LA County last year. Per capita, LA County had the sixth most accidents per capita among California counties.

California statistics show that the counties with the highest rates of bicycle collisions do not tend to be densely populated. Rather, they tend to be coastal counties, often with a state university.

A national study recently found that bicycle collisions are occurring at an increasing rate in urban environments. In California, planners and legislators are encouraging city residents to bike to work as part of a statewide effort to reduce carbon emissions.

Local agencies have recently constructed many bike paths in California, and bicycle advocates say more are needed to improve safety conditions.

California lawmakers recently placed added responsibility on motorists in an attempt to reduce collisions. Last September, a law took effect that allows officers to cite drivers who come within three feet of bicyclists while passing them.

Nevertheless, of the 1,503 vehicle versus bicycle accidents in 2011 and 2012 in California, 61 percent were the fault of the bicyclist, 20 percent were the driver of a motor vehicle and the rest were not determined or hit-and-run, according to CHP data.

Central Coast police departments have recently begun conducting increased enforcement activities targeting bicyclists who break rules, like those against running stops signs and riding on the sidewalk. Police in the cities of Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, for instance, have focused efforts on intersections with frequent bicycle traffic and issued tickets to riders they catch violating traffic laws.

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There might be a lot less deaths if the bikers would stop at stop lights & signs & not shoot through them & out in front of drivers. There was an article about bikers stopping & some of them said it’s to much of an inconvience to stop at them & a hassle to get started again. Well they are suppose to follow the rules of the road like vehicles do, so can vehicles say & do the same thing???


Just yesterday, I was stopped at the light for the northbound off-ramp at LOVR, as the light turned green and we began to turn onto LOVR to cross over freeway a biker rider blew through the red right for traffic on LOVR, no attempt to stop or to look for turning traffic.

Ted Slanders

California streets and roads = WATER. Bicyclists on said roadways = Oil. Inherently they do not mix.

City streets and highways were built for the automobile, and then later on “squeezed” to accommodate the bicyclist with more vehicle laws so the Lance Armstrongs won’t be doing a three month stint at French Hospital. Therefore, for the safety of all under this blatant condition, automobile drivers and bicyclists have to follow ALL California DMV laws pertaining to their “vehicles” to the fullest extent, period! Are you listening bicyclists?

My pet peeve relative to the Timmy-Ten-Speeds and their flamboyant spandex dress, which admits its dangerous for them to be on the streets and highways in the first place, is when they hold up traffic by not pulling to the side when they cannot perform the posted speed limit. They forget, their bicycle is a VEHICLE in the same manner as the AUTOMOBILE under DMV laws. Therefore they’re to follow to the letter California V C Section 22400 Minimum Speed Law as shown below.

California V C Section 22400 Minimum Speed Law: (a) No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, because of a grade, or in compliance with law. No person shall bring a vehicle to a complete stop upon a highway so as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the stop is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

Anyone else enjoying California’s new AB 1371 DMV law where you’re to give the bicyclist a three foot distance, and the ramifications thereof? This really works well when Lance Armstrong is using city streets and not following the aforementioned California V C Section 22400 pertaining to the minimum speed law.

Bicyclists, you ride at your own risk in your chosen mode of transportation because you will never be able to legislate that all drivers are to accommodate you 100 percent of the time in a safe manner. This is compounded when the bicyclist does not follow the DMV laws in the first place for their own safety and others.