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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To be addressed to SLO County and City Road Departments. Let’s bring the streets and sidewalks up-to-date for bikes so it’s safe for everyone. Let’s also bring the highways up-to-date where possible for bikes use. You don’t have to use brain surgery, just follow the same method used in every university town in the US and make it happen.


Great, just cut all public salaries by 50% and make their pension system support itself and we can pay for it.


You wouldn’t even have to cut them 50%, I think 20% would be enough.


I rode by bicycle out to Colorado many years ago. It was an awesome trip. Met some really nice people. If there were no cars or trucks coming at me from the opposite direction, I wouldn’t worry about a car coming up from behind. I know I was relying on the skill and courtesy of drivers to look out for my welfare. Over that three weeks I only had two incidents. The first was as I was on my way through Yosemite over Tioga Pass. I heard a vehicle coming up from behind and turned and saw a large motor home who wasn’t moving over. I dove over the side as the motor home drove by having not moved over one inch even though there were no vehicles coming the other way on a straight section of road. The second was coming down I-70 from Glenwood Springs, Colorado to Grand Junction, Colorado. They were still building the freeway in sections and I was on a two lane section with very little shoulder and a steep drop off. A line of vehicles, many of them trucks, were coming up on me. There were vehicles coming from the other direction. I heard a truck a ways back who was laying on his horn. I looked back and it was a truck with a mobile home hanging a couple feet over the side of the road. Again, I dove off the side of the road down the embankment as the truck went by. Thanks to that truck driver for the heads up.

I still enjoy riding and always have a ting of envy when I see cyclists ride through our county with panniers and camping gear. And I always know that my safety when I ride depends greatly on the drivers of vehicles.


The “out-of-towners” have been organized and identified as such. They used to stay at the

fairgrounds. Fortunately they seem to have been shamed out of the area.

I have seen people wait and wait to turn into their own driveways because of the oblivious

bicyclists snaking up Vine street. They tend to have a rude and self-centered air of

superiority about them.

Encourage them to gather in a corner of one of the parks and nibble on their little snacks

in their day-glo spandex costumes.


As far as I know, the event you are referring to is (or was?) conducted once per year on Memorial Day weekend. I am not questioning that such things happened during that event but you are generalizing it to imply that it happens all the time and that “out-of-towners” are usually the source of the problems.


What SHOULD be outlawed is fat, out-of-shape men and women wearing the skin tight riding garb. Seriously, what is the point in this? Message to fat, out-of-shape bicycle riders: You look disgustingly horrible in those outfits and they do not assist you whatsoever in the efficiency of your riding. Can someone tell me what is accomplished by wearing these outfits?

Russ J

Perspicacious; having keen mental perception and understanding; discerning:

Alternate definition: Ass Bag without feeling who feels superiority over others by weight or appearance.

Obviously overweight people in spandex aren’t something to ogle over but at least they’re making the effort to be healthy. I’ve been blessed with a metabolism that keeps me thin while others struggle with their weight. I’ve seen overweight people begin a regular bicycle commute to work and they loose that extra weight PRONTO.

All these ass wipes that think bikers are cocky, arrogant, reckless bastards haven’t a clue. I have never seen these types of riders but about 50% of the people I drive cars with are either A-holes or are so clueless they shouldn’t be on a public road.

County supervisors- “WAKE UP” and build more bike lanes! Our communites need them.


1. I used to be somewhat of a fat ass myself but NEVER wore spandex that made me look worse! I am not ridiculing their physical appearance, just their CHOICE OF CLOTHING when riding.

2. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, stop spelling “lose” “loose”. You and a majority of the other posters on this site.

3. There are far more idiot bicyclists by percentage than vehicle drivers. That’s a fact.

4. More bike lanes require more funding and I am all for it as soon as a surtax is levied on bicycles and bicycle equipment to pay for them.


I agree with you about “lose” vs. “loose.”

If you include children in the calculations for cyclists, you may be right about there being more idiot cyclists. But it is not “far more” as the recent trend towards use of mobile devices and other distractions while driving has greatly increased the number of idiot drivers.

I am curious as to what you where you want your tax money spent. If I prefer that some of mine goes to bike lanes rather than to developers or to the DEA, NSA, etc., I should have as much right to get what I want as you do to get what you want.


I am not sure you actually care about a response to your last question but here goes.

Those jerseys are usually bright and grab attention reducing the aggressive drivers’ “I didn’t see him/her” excuse making ability. They also are help avoid excessive heat buildup when riding — would you prefer such people rode shirtless? The shorts are made to minimize friction points which can result in some very uncomfortable rashes — even blisters on longer rides. I rarely use them myself but for other reasons. See Russ J’s comments for more feedback on your attitude about body shape — do you similarly criticize overweight people in other public settings (i.e. the beach)?


Thank you for the explanation as to the purpose of the spandex. Wear loose clothing over the spandex please.


Not one single bicyclist cares what you think. Quit looking at bicycle butts and drive!


Keep in mind the bicyclists who think they own the road. They dart in and out of traffic,

ride on sidewalks or anywhere they like and shoot through red lights car drivers have to

wait for.

The out-of-town bicycling visitors are the worst. They blast down country roads feeling

impunity, towing their children behind them and feeling impervious to law and nature.

The roads are mostly payed for by gasoline taxes……by motorists.


Your generalization betray your ignorance on the subject. Some fit your first definition but not all or even most.

How in the hell do you know that the “out-of-town bicycling visitors are the worst”? Do you stop and ask them where they are from? The only time I think you could even justify that statement as a generalization is during the mass rides put on as fund-raisers. As for towing their children behind them, I would bet that the vast majority of those who do that are locals.

To bust the last myth you state, roads are NOT paid for by gas taxes. The construction funds come out of the state or local general funds paid by all taxpayers. Gas taxes are used for road repairs but that is only fair since damage is proportional to the weight to the vehicle and is negligible in the case of cyclists. Almost all of those out-of-town cyclists you condemn got here by driving anyway and most adult cyclists also own and use cars (or pickups or even a few bigger rigs.) They are paying those gas taxes too.


I am curious about the reasons for the 10 (at this time) thumbs down. Are you disagreeing with something specific I stated or do you just not like someone who rides?


Meh, they just don’t like facts getting in the way of their opinions.

Russ J

Why can’t our roads department lay down some asphalt and give bicyclists some room to ride. South County is the worst. No shoulder on MANY county highways. It’s a death trip ride along Los Berros/Thompson and equally bad along Orchard/Hutton. Why can’t we spend some money and promote good health, recreation and better transit? Come county supervisors, give us riders a break!


I have an idea….just ban bicyclists from roadways with insufficient shoulders.


The cost of widening roads is not cheap in most places. Engineering standards must be met and that is expensive. In some places additional right of way must be purchased — a process that is both long and costly. I would like to see this happen too but it will take time given budget constraints. I favor a policy of including widening in any resurfacing or major repair projects as it slightly reduces the costs.

(PS While the roads you mention are bad, try riding the upper part of Price Canyon Rd. or Hwy 227 north of Noyes during commuting hours.)


Just curious….why would you want to ride those roads at that time? No bike lanes and bumper to bumper traffic.


Easy, they feel it is their right, be damned if it is safe or not.


It IS our right but that isn’t the reason I do it. Safety is less but can still be maintained at reasonable levels by riding steadily and predictably and by being very observant of other traffic and making allowances for it when necessary.


They are the fastest ways home (AG) from work (SLO) and sometimes my schedule is tight. I am a good enough rider to deal with them although it isn’t pleasant.


It has been noted that there is a general shortage of quality aggregate used to make asphalt paving. The irony does not escape me that cyclists came out in packs to oppose the recently proposed quarry near Santa Margarita.


Agreed. That’s been one of my pet peeves with riding in SLO County for the last 25 years.

The bicycle lanes are ridiculously narrow, and do nothing to provide any kind of space to allow for protection between motor vehicles and bicycles.

Families that want to enjoy a ride together have to ride single file, with the parent either in front or in back of the line, and not next to their children, which means they don’t get to enjoy a decent conversation with their children while riding as people in cars do. Nor can they do anything to offer guidance or protection to their children because they’re in front or in back, not next to them.

The entire attitude towards bicyclists in California and SLO County needs improvement. There are plenty of countries, and counties within the U.S., that have done a great job of providing a safe lane/travel corridor for bicyclists. Many of them are just flat out gorgeous – and SAFE.

As to all the bicycle haters on this forum, there are plenty of good reasons to ride a bike, besides probably being the healthiest means of transportation, it’s also very environmentally friendly as they don’t create any pollution, and are very economical because they don’t require having to buy gas. I guarantee that as gas prices increase, and the cost of living continues to go up, and people become more conscious of their health, there will be more bicyclists on the road.

Now we can all bury our heads in the sand and keep things just the way they are … dangerous for everyone, or we can realize there’s a need and do something productive to address it.

There are many possibilities: roads can be designated for bicycles only, barriers can be erected, bicycle lanes can be widened.

Point is, cycling is not just a ‘recreational’ activity, but for a growing number, is a means of transportation, and should be given the respect and attention it deserves … people’s lives are at stake.


same number of inmates that died in custody in the County jail, anybody doing anyting about that?


As I was reading this I glanced out my second story office window to see another cyclist riding down Marsh street on the sidewalk. I see this happen at least 3-4 times a day. I’m just waiting for someone to walk out of one of the stores and get creamed by the cyclist. Numerous people have complained to SLOPD but nothing ever happens. You see them blow through stop signs, go the wrong way on a one way street, cut people off, you name it. I have NEVER seen a cyclist pulled over or even heard of someone getting a ticket. In some states cyclists are not required to come to a full stop at a stop sign unless there is opposing traffic, but they are required to come to a safe and prudent speed before proceeding. This would be a great compromise. Just enforce the darned law. I’m not anti cyclists, I ride too, but I do try to be a courteous cyclist. We could go on for hours about what we see out on the road. I would just like to see some of the more egregious violators cited.

This is kind of like the crosswalk violators. I’ve come very close to getting hit quite a few times. Once at the crosswalk at Higuera and Garden I almost got hit and there was even a motorcycle cop sitting right there on Garden. I looked at him and raised my arms and he just shrugged and rode off. I then complained to our illustrious police chief. I was told that the officers don’t like to write crosswalk violation tickets because when the violator challenges it in court, the traffic judge here in town very rarely upholds them. WTF? What’s the judge going to do when someone gets hit in a crosswalk.

Selective law enforcement at its best.


I think it is part of the private agendas that those in power have. You have to know that every weekend in the wine areas an officer could pull over most cars and likely give DUI’s but that would be bad for business, so the powers in those areas have asked to go lightly, same holds true for bicycles, those in charge have an agenda for promoting bikes so they have told officers to look the other way when they break the law, it would be bad for their business and not support their agendas.


You may be right about the wine taster DUIs but probably less so about the political pull of the cycling community. It is more likely due to the difficulty of stopping cyclists and to the general overcrowding of the courts. Cops tend to view these offenses as minor — like failing to use a turn signal, California stops or minor speeding in cars which they also rarely enforce. I do agree that better enforcement on a long-term, consistent basis would improve the behavior of cyclists but I am not sure that it could be done practically unless you give the job to cops on bikes (& fit) or motorcycles.


My comment about agendas was more about those of mayors, supervisors and such and not about political pull of the cycling community but more of pet projects of those elected and such.


The sidewalk riding is one of my pet peeves!

I love your suggestion about the modified stop– I know quite a few cyclists who’ve been ticketed for rolling stops.


Strong legs, weak minds and a little Darwin?