From 2014 to 2016, 180 bicyclists were killed in Los Angeles, and many others were seriously injured. The city had more bicycle fatalities than any other city in the U.S. It also surpassed the bicycle fatality rates of every state other than California, Florida, and New York. The high number of fatalities results from several factors, including congestion, a lack of bicycle infrastructure, poor road maintenance, and failures to act by politicians.
Problems caused by congestion
Los Angeles has the worst congestion on its roadways of any major city in the U.S. The county has a population of around 19 million people, and many of them choose to drive to their jobs. The result is millions of commuters clogging the city’s roadways and streets every day. Congestion causes drivers to become angry and to drive more aggressively. Some of them speed or drive while they are distracted. When bicyclists share the roads with motorists in heavy traffic, some motorists fail to see them and hit them. Others open doors in the paths of bicyclists when the motorists park alongside the streets. Some motorists have hit-and-run accidents with bicyclists, fleeing the scene without stopping to help the injured bicyclists.
In one case, Frederick “Woon” Frazier was hit and killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2018 after his bicycle was struck from behind at a high rate of speed. Two days later, a friend of his was struck by another hit-and-run driver while he was attending a vigil in Frazier’s honor.
Despite the problems of congestion and the dangers that it can bring, the city has done little to invest in public transportation or to encourage carpooling to cut it down. This means that motorists will continue to endanger bicyclists who try to share the roads with them.
Lack of bicycle infrastructure
Los Angeles’s lack of bicycle infrastructure is a major problem. The city has few separated bicycle paths and few bicycle lanes on its streets. In a study that we reported on that was conducted in Toronto, Ontario and Vancouver, B.C. in Canada, the authors looked at the reasons why bicycle crashes tend to occur in urban settings. Most of the factors that were identified by the researchers had to do with infrastructure problems, including the following:
- A lack of bicycle infrastructure on major streets with parked cars on the sides of the roads
- Placement of bicycle lanes on major streets that have parked cars on the sides of the roads
- Placement of bicycle lanes on major streets that do not have parked cars
- A lack of bicycle infrastructure on major streets without parked cars
- A lack of bicycle infrastructure on residential and local streets
- Shared bicycle and pedestrian paths
- Bicycle crashes on pedestrian paths and sidewalks
Los Angeles has all of the infrastructure problems that were identified by the researchers in the Canadian study. There are very few bicycle lanes. When the city adds them, they tend to place them on major streets where the bicyclists are forced to share the roads with motorists. Many local streets do not have any bicycle infrastructure at all, and many paths that do exist are shared by pedestrians and bicyclists. When bicycle lanes are placed on major streets that have cars parked along the sides of the road, the bicyclists face risks from the motorists on either side of them. In addition to dangers from vehicles that are traveling next to them, the cyclists also face dangers from motorists who open their car doors to exit their cars on their other sides.
In response to the problems, Los Angeles has issued two different documents. In the 2010 Bicycle Plan, the city outlined an ambitious program to build a connected bicycle infrastructure in the city. The plan said that the city would build 200 miles worth of connected bicycle infrastructure every five years. The second document came in 2017 with the Vision Zero Action Plan. This plan identified the most dangerous roads in Los Angeles and made plans to improve them. However, little has been done by the city to implement the promises from either of these two plans. In 2017, the city’s plan to install bicycle lanes in Playa del Rey was scrapped when the public flooded social media to protest it. Since then, bicycle infrastructure plans have ground to a halt.
Poor road maintenance
Another major problem in Los Angeles that has contributed to cyclist accidents and fatalities is the state of the roads. The city covers more than 500 square miles and has thousands of roads. Even when it receives reports of defects and problems, it is slow to act to fix them. The city pays out millions of dollars in judgments awarded to cyclists and their families who have been injured or killed because of poorly maintained roads. Accidents that have occurred include a fatality when a man swerved to avoid landslide debris on the Pacific Coast Highway that the city’s sweepers had failed to clean up and an accident in which a man died when he hit an area of pavement that had buckled up because of tree roots growing underneath it.
Instead of spending millions on judgments and settlements each year, the city should turn its attention to fixing the road defects that cause cyclist injuries and deaths. However, like the bicycle infrastructure plans, it does not appear that the city is trying to improve the conditions of the roads in the city.
Failures to act
The failure to implement the Bicycle Plan or the Vision Zero Action Plan points to a failure of the city’s politicians to act to make the streets safer for bicyclists. As the Playa del Rey example shows, the city quickly buckled to pressure from motorists when it attempted to add bicycle lanes. Since that time, the city has done little to improve the safety of bicyclists, and more deaths happen each year.
Get help from Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers APC
It is unfortunate that so many bicyclists are seriously injured or killed in Los Angeles every year. While the problems that contribute to these accidents are clear, little is being done to address them. If you have been injured in a bicycle accident or have lost a loved one, you may be able to hold the people and entities that caused the accident accountable for their actions. The experienced bicycle accident attorneys at the law firm of Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers represent bicyclists and families that have suffered losses because of the negligent actions of motorists and the city. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your potential claim by calling 310.592.0445.