A bicycle is not the preferred form of transportation for most Southern California residents. But for those who do choose to travel from place to place via pedal-powered two wheels, the trek can be unpleasant.

A small, but still significant, portion of students choose cycling over driving. This could be for a multitude of reasons, be it avoiding high costs of parking and gas, maintaining a certain level of daily exercise, or maybe driving just simply isn’t an option.

Cycling to and from campus, even from the nearest cities, proves a dangerous feat. Anyone who has been on Chapman Avenue at the 57 freeway or on Lemon Street at the 91 freeway knows that cars consistently crowd the roads to the point of near chaos in North Orange County.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, there are over 33 million registered vehicles for just over 24 million licensed drivers in California in 2014. Registered vehicles not only outnumber bicycles, but also outnumber drivers.

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In California, the number of registered vehicles outnumbers the amount of licensed drivers. The last thing the state needs is more cars on the road because cycling is too dangerous.
Image Credit: U.S. Chamber of Commerce

It’s this impossible ratio and unsafe road conditions that lead to unnerving statistics about bicycle/motor vehicle crash incidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2013, 743 cyclists were struck by a vehicle and killed, which is the highest number of fatalities since 2006.

Statistically, just over two cyclists are killed on the road daily. According to the NHTSA, California leads the nation in the number of bicyclist fatalities.

In 2013, there were an estimated 48,000 bicycle related injuries reported, although the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center estimates that only about 10 percent of incidents are reported.

With heavy road construction and renovation happening all over North Orange County to create a vehicle underpass at the railroad, a lot of the north/southbound surface street traffic is directed to Acacia Avenue.

Acacia Avenue is one of the only streets available to cyclists in which the rider is entitled to an entire lane, rather than two feet on the side of the road. But, pavement conditions are less than perfect as potholes and cracks riddle the right lane.

According to the PBIC, 13 percent of bicycle accidents happen because the road or walkway is in poor condition. Unsafe pavement conditions on Acacia Avenue in combination with directing most surface traffic to this street makes the margin for error, in terms of bicyclist accidents, increasingly small.

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This is an example of dangerous pavement in bike lanes from the Bicycle Coalition, which functions as an organization for people to report unsafe conditions and expedite renovations.
Image Credit: bicyclecoalition.org

Acacia Avenue and Chapman Avenue are two prime streets for getting to and from the college and university available to students in Orange County. The pavement on Acacia Avenue becomes increasingly bad north of the 91 freeway, and Chapman becomes impossible for a cyclist west of Raymond Avenue.

Just two weeks ago, a Fullerton resident and cyclist was struck by a vehicle on Chapman Avenue and hospitalized for critical head injuries. This most recent incident is a mere line item from the slew of available articles after a Google search of “Fullerton bicycle accidents.”

Although bikes on the road may be a nuisance to cars in a hurry, cyclists are entitled to three feet on each side, according to the California “Three Feet for Safety Act.” Penalties for violation have a minimum $200 price tag, without any collision. Once a bicyclist is struck, fees could be upwards of $1,000.

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The California “Three Feet for Safety Act” requires drivers give cyclists three feet of space on both sides when riding on the street.
Image Credit: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

Much like how rolling through stop signs and driving through crosswalks when pedestrians are present is wildly common, this bike safety law is regularly ignored. Statistically, bicycle accidents continue to grow in number.

To ignore the problem of unsafe roads and walkways is to ignore the importance of the lives lost on the road.

It’s imperative that the city take the initiative to ensure safety for residents who choose pedal power over engine torque.

 

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