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Lethal Summer for Cyclists

What can be done to make the roads safer for bike riders?

It's been a lethal summer for Sonoma County cyclists with five people killed since mid-May and many more injured in altercations with cars.

The latest incident occurred on Thursday when a Santa Rosa man was run over by a driver who chased him onto a golf course. The driver has been arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon while the cyclist recovers from a broken wrist.

But a new bill aims to reduce altercations between cars and bikes by requiring drivers to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when overtaking them from behind the same lane.

The legislation--SB1464-- has already been approved by the California Senate and will be considered by the state assembly next. Proponents say it gives drivers a clear, measurable and objective standard for how to pass bicyclists safely and helps prevent cyclists from being hit from behind, the leading cause of cyclist fatalities. 

But is it enough? Or do cities need to do more to improve infrastructure for cyclists and charge motorists who hit bike riders? (So far only two Sonoma County drivers have been charged.) And will creating a minimum distance between cyclists and cars help prevent accidents?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Robin and Jeff August 20, 2012 at 03:56 PM
If you know a driver that matches the description, although vague please call the California Highway Patrol Office in Rohnert Park or another agengy. We need to find the person that caused this accident. And people please slow down and follow the posted speeds. He is lucky to be alive.
Robin and Jeff August 20, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Were you in the Cotati area of Old Redwood Highway before 10 am on Sunday and may have seen Blond haired lady with big hair driving a Silver Honda at a high rate of speed not sure of the model of the car that hit a Motorcyclist riding a Black Harley with red pinstripes at Railroad maybe you know of someone that resembles the description. Please help us find the driver that caused this accident. Knowing that lots of people read the Patch maybe this will jog someones memory.
Nancy Rumsey August 20, 2012 at 04:47 PM
We had a very safe and success 19th Holstein 100 Bike and Walk on Sat. 8/18 out of Petaluma Junior High to the rural roads of Marin and Sonoma. Thanks you cyclists for sharing the road and you cars for offering some respect. I suggest we get our kids on bikes and people will watch-out more because their kids also are on bikes. Just like we started seat belts education and trash pick-as a kids' new activity. Involve your family and you own it. Road safety is too important and getting everyone out and about on bikes is vital for health and the planet.
Miguel August 20, 2012 at 04:50 PM
I see bicyclists running stops signs all the time, cutting in front of cars like they think they're a car, and some ride in the middle of the lane instead of near the curb among other ignorant behaviors. As soon as bicyclists realize the streets are made for cars, not bicycles, and act accordingly, you'd see less accidents and issues.
LP August 20, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I want to be able to ride my bike in confidence to work, which is less then 5 miles from where I live. But all these accidents have me worried. I keep in the bike lanes, let cars go first, and always wear my helmet. I'm just trying to loss some weight the healthy way. I sometimes feel likeI'm going to a beach and swimming with great whites, never knowing who's going to bite.
Bill Fishman August 20, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Edgar, my brother rides several hundred miles a week and I am very sympathetic to keeping the roads safe for bicyclists; but let's be realistic: the city, county, and state are broke; the county cannot maintain its existing roads, allowing some of them to revert to gravel; and the swerving that goes on to avoid potholes, ill-kept rail-crossings and the like endanger motorists as well as bicyclists. I can tell you that the new law is helpful insofar as I no longer worry about getting cited for crossing a double yellow line to give bicyclists a wider berth. I DO worry about getting smacked head-on by a car coming from the other direction. As to the "creep feeling" -- get used to it. You're sharing narrow country roads with vehicles that outweigh you by a factor of 20. I grew up driving a farm truck that weighed 10 tons, fully loaded. It is not easy to keep a vehicle like that inside a 12-foot lane on a curvy country road under the best of circumstances. They don't have the ability to swerve around bicyclists, to stop quickly, or to dart back into their lane to avoid oncoming traffic. Simple physics.
Darris August 20, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Best of luck to your brother-in-law Dawn . . . I've been in his shoes . . . sending lots of love . . . The right thing to do is for the woman to step up and turn herself in. We will be on the lookout for this driver. Someone saw her and this will jog their memory and duty.
Darris August 20, 2012 at 06:15 PM
I stopped riding my bike on the roads when I moved from Marin County to Sonoma County in 1989. There is no room for both cars and bikes especially on our rural country and coastal roads. I live in Bodega Bay where a lot of bicyclists want to ride. Unfortunately there are not even shoulders on our roads to give some measure of safety to bikers. I have to say that while I support measures to increase safety for cyclists, this law, if passed, would then create extreme danger for cars here in Bodega Bay. Head on collisions are not unusual here. If you give a three foot birth you are fully into the opposite lane of traffic on our narrow two-lane highway. There is no easy answer. Instead of putting funds into bike lanes we chose to dump unknown amounts of money into a rail system. Our culture is car-focused which is unfortunate on many levels. My cynical attitude after 4 decades of driving is that drivers are a hapless bunch. Cyclist awareness should be a stronger focus on drivers license tests. Cycling groups/clubs promoting safe cycling courses and rides will help. My 16 year-old son rides the roads of Petaluma and I pray everyday that he is safe. We have conversations about the actions of both negligent drivers (he’s getting his drivers license) AND careless cyclists. Responsibility is “the ability to respond” and it falls on both the drivers in cars and cyclists (including motorcycles). I think the biggest factor over all is to SLOW DOWN! PLEASE!
Marv Cantwell August 20, 2012 at 06:33 PM
You really want to know what the problem is??? Most peple are distracted, mostley by the phones, or other electronic crap, You can't even cross the street without worring about being hit, with the walk sign on and clear right of way, Some idiot with a phone stuck to the ear tries to run you over. Lot of good that law did. So what another law going to do? Yup U gessed not a dam thing.
Carolyn Andrews August 20, 2012 at 06:45 PM
When cyclists turn left, they need to drive in the vehicle lane. This is entirely legal as the roads are actually made for both bicycles and cars. I have seen many more ignorant actions on the part of the drivers of cars, both toward cyclists and pedestrians as well as other vehicles, than I have seen by cyclists. People need to need be more alert when piloting a heavy lethal weapon and they need to recognize the rights of others. ---Car Driver and Sometimes Pedestrian
Karina Ioffee August 20, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Thanks everyone for your comments. Miguel, are streets really made for cars only?
Lisa Ohman August 20, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I am with Edgar. Everyone needs to just SLOW down and PAY ATTENTION. To all of you who think roads are ONLY suppose to be for cars, well how do you explain then how the LAW says cyclist must USE the ROADS not the sidewalks??? SHARE the ROADS that we ALL PAY for and quit being SELF- CENTERED JACKASSES!!!
Claron Werner August 20, 2012 at 11:38 PM
I don't believe that the entirety of the fault lies with the people driving motorized vehicles. Bicyclists are always touting their slogan "Share the Road". Yet, much of the time I see bicyclists, not obeying street laws. For example, riding on the wrong side of the road, running stop signs, riding three wide in a bike lane built for one on a narrow road, and even speeding, yes, speeding. How is blatant disregard for the rules that all vehicle operators must follow sharing? Exactly how can motorized vehicle drivers always be at fault when these basic rules are all too often ignored? The bicycle is also a vehicle and is also subject to the vehicle code. Therefore they should also follow the laws. Perhaps more infrastructure is called for, but more education for both drivers and perhaps a license for cyclists is also needed. Perhaps local law enforcement should issue more citations to bicyclists who put themselves and others at risk with this behavior. I agree that motorists should be very careful around cyclists, I always give cyclists as much space as possible, yet I can't help but be irritated when, it is always assumed that the person driving a car is at fault when there is an incident with a bicycle.
David Devoto August 21, 2012 at 01:21 AM
I can't believe the 12:55 post made it on. Plain and simple, neither own the road, but if a motor vehicle and pedal driven cycle collide, the vehicle will always win. Not a matter for discussion. When I rode, I was not careful, I admit. I did not obey traffic laws. Now, I see more and more cyclists doing so, and carefully watching for vehicles, which is great. The last thing ANYONE wants is to hurt or worse a cyclist or motorcyclist - so we ALL need to take it easy. careful cyclists lately,
Lisa Ohman August 21, 2012 at 03:22 AM
@-Claron: Not JUST a ( tout) for cyclists - For everyone whether you travel by car, truck, SUV, walk, bike, motocycle, skateboard whatever. Share the road APPLIES to Everyone!!! Traffic rules are for Everyone's safety!! @David: So If the last thing anyone wants is to hurt someone else then expain to me the reasoning of the hit & run offenders leaving their victims on the roadside injured & dying while they go off to the store for milk or because they were late for work ??? Do you even read the papers or watch the news?.. Do you even live in this community?...yeah take it easy yourself.. I always obey the rules when I ride. I wish everyone would! There are many drivers out there who enjoy bullying others!!...and dont care if they hurt or kill someone !!!.. Be part of the solution- NOT part of the Problem!!!
Patricia Jeffares August 21, 2012 at 03:39 AM
How about federal stimulus money for dedicated bike paths? Everyone wins - less pollution, more exercise and total separation from cars for safety.
Alex Horvath August 21, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I like this idea. Here in Sonoma County we do have the Jor Rodota Trail, a paved bike/pedestrian pah between Santa Rosa and Sebatopol. In the East Bay, the Iron Horse Trail is another such paved route that extends from Concord down to Pleasanton. Wouldn't it be great to have a safe bike route from Petaluma up to Healdsburg?
Ernest Giono August 21, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Perhaps if bike riders followed the DMV code there would not be so many accidents. I find the bike riders are aggressive towards morotists. I avoid them by giving them a wide berth because I don't know what they are going to do. Hand signals, stopping at stop signs, keeping to the far right and not riding side by side, All these would help. The most infraction I see is just plain running stop signs and red lights as if they were not there.
Scott Andrews August 21, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Bill; I ride out there, and I can tell you that it is not the ability of the driver that is at fault here. It is the mindset of the driver (Edgar's point). The guys in huge dairy trucks are polite and pass in those vehicles that weight 300 times what I weigh, and they always give wide berth. I am more fearful of the jerk in the green Toyota Tundra out on Chileno Valley Road who has blasted by me at 60 + with literally less than 12-18 inches to spare (once twice in a single day). That guy should be arrested. I'm sure he has no problem controlling his truck. It's his ego that seems to be the problem.
Scott Andrews August 21, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Umm, Miguel.. The streets are made for people. Cars are allowed to drive on them, along with pedestrians, horses, scooters, and, bikes. It is a privilege to drive, not a right, and that privilege comes with conditions (that's why you need a license to drive a car, and don't need one to walk on the street), one of which is to take care to share the road with all of those who also own it and have a RIGHT to use it.
The Mighty Groove August 21, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Read the above; this is what bike haters sound like. My co-worker got run off the road by a driver just this morning. I'm sick of this negative attitude and aggression towards bicyclists.
Bill Fishman August 21, 2012 at 04:25 PM
I don't want to parse words, Karina; but think about it: From a design and engineering point of view, many of the roads in rural Sonoma and Marin counties WERE INDEED "made for cars" with little or no thought to bicyclists. Their use has evolved but the physical infrastructure has not kept up.
Scott Andrews August 21, 2012 at 04:48 PM
But Bill, you ARE parsing words (actually I think the term is "mincing"). Perhaps they were built with cars as the dominant design requirement, but the fact that you can walk, skate, ride, cycle, horseback-ride, or dance with an advertising sign on any non-interstate road or highway is an indication that roads are made for people, not specifically and only for cars*. That's why it is incumbent on all road users (cyclists included - I know some of those guys who seem to act as if the road is "made for bikes" too) to share the road and share is in way that is safe and polite. Roads are a common shared resource. S * The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 (AKA the Interstate Highway Act) was the first, and so far only, law that created roads specifically for cars. Unless there is no reasonable alternative (e.g for peds, bikes and horses), only specific types of vehicles are allowed on those roads. But, that is not what we are talking about here.
Bradford A Morris August 22, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Bill Fishman your 100% right. The rest of you open your eyes and know that the majority of the bike riders I ever see do not right single file or in the bike lanes in the city area. They break all the laws from stop signs to unsafe lane changes and no hand signals for turns. I lived on a County road and they usually ride in the middle of the lane in pairs. So you bike's should have to be license like a motor cycle and get tickets like motor cycles, cars and trucks and know you are causeing a unsafe condition for the person driving to not hit another car, something or you. So if your not in your lane or follow the laws I will buss bye you and find no fault to others who do the same.! Like Bill said the roads were not design for vehicals and bikes. So whatch out for your own safety and quit crying!
Will Parent August 22, 2012 at 11:52 PM
This argument sounds very familiar to the bickering between the idiots (Dems and Repubs) in Washington... or 3rd graders fighting over a ball at recess. Sad and pathetic. There is plenty of blame to go around. As a runner (and occasional cyclist), I realize that a large percentage of drivers are NOT taking time or effort to look for me. I run defensively, and wait until I see the driver make eye contact with me. Occasionally, I will give a nice slap to the rear end of the car if they blatantly avoid looking both ways for any pedestrian traffic. If you fail to recognize me at an intersection... I will let you know to wake the &$(@ up.
Scott Andrews August 23, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Actually, I am not sure if the law says that cyclists must ride single file. I doubt it, since motorcyclists do this all the time. The issue is not that the roads are not designed for cyclists, the roads are not designed to accommodate both cyclists and motorists at the same time, because they travel at different speeds on the road that is designed for both of them to use. I don't see anyone here getting angry about farm vehicles, many of which are not even registered, driving slowly along county roads. The problem seems to be that they don't like to be bothered with slowing down to accommodate cyclists, and feel the cyclists should get out of their way..that's about as civil as running down grandma in the aisles of Wal Mart, simply because you are in a hurry. I ride at the side of the road, and I try to get my cyclist friends to do the same. A few of them DO ride in pairs out in the lane. That is, I believe their legal right, and many of them have taken to doing that simply because so many asinine motorists "buss bye" as Mr. Morris above states. That practice is dangerous, and anyone who does it should be cited for reckless driving.
Bradford A Morris August 23, 2012 at 02:32 PM
You slap my car and I will stop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Think before you assult anything in the future. That could be considered a hit and run offence if you keep riding. Also there will be some not me but some who will stop and return a nice slap to you as well are you ready for that. LOL now who is acting like a 3rd grader spapping cars and saying foul words like &$(@ up. You have attitude just like the majority of riders and derserve the fly by!!! How about just follow the laws and watch out for yourself. I ride a motorcycle and I do just that and ignor the idiots inorder to be safe. Try it and keep your attitude at home!!!
Bradford A Morris August 23, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Scott Andrews. Bike lanes are not wide enough for pair riding.not a law issue. Cities have spent large amounts of money for bike lanes and pay police to ride at bike events so how about you use that as a place to ride instead of places you say are unsafe. If it is OK for bike riders to slow down traffic by being in the road not on the side single file, which I see walkers always do, why not let people walk anywhere on the road. Law citations can be given for that. That is called J walking. As far as making note to me being asinine remember your safety is your responsibility when you go places that are not designed for you. Going there worried weather you may get hit or hurt is just stupid. Besides most roads are in great need of repairs from pot holes etc shows me your a hugh risk taker. That falls in to the asinine bike riders club who derserve what they get!!! My brother front tire hit a hole and he fliped and broke his shoulder and clavical and can not ride again or any type of sport. He tells people do not ride where it is not safe look what happen to me. I ride a bike and a motorcycle. I took a sharp turn across a lane on a curve and ended up on a windshield and the driver drove off. It was my fault, risk taker. I do not like the goofball drivers as well but I take my safety into my own hands based in the condition and area in which I am riding not anybody else should do that for me.. Take responsibility!!! Think before you act! and call others asinine!
mikeg55 August 23, 2012 at 07:53 PM
If bike riders ride 2 or 3 across blocking the road, they shouldn't get upset when a car driver has to pass them. If the car gets too close, well, the bicyclist put themselves in that position by not sharing the road. Most bicyclists I pass are going single file and i try to be very careful. But if the rode is blocked, it can be very tenuous trying to pass when oncoming traffic is regulary occurring. Riding single file and letting the car pass would be safer for everyone.
Will Parent August 24, 2012 at 05:33 AM
My "slap" is a tap on the car while I am RUNNING if someone nearly hits me with their car after FAILING TO STOP OR YIELD. I would welcome meeting up afterwards, and have no problem justifying my actions. A wake up call is warranted for any driver, cyclist, runner or pedestrian that is not paying attention to his/her surroundings. Too many egos involved in this debate. Be safe, all. Ps- I choose not to ride my bike often in town due to unsafe conditions. Just a matter of time before becoming a statistic.

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