Editors: B-roll and interview of an e-bike user is available here.
While driving dropped in 2020 due to the pandemic, bicycling and e-bikes gained in popularity -- setting up a potentially dangerous combination of more cyclists on the road as driving returns to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Nationally, bicyclists killed in crashes with vehicles increased 36 percent from 2010 to 2018 with most of them occurring among male riders 20 years and older, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In California between 2018-2020, there were more than 30,000 bike crashes with vehicles, 18,250 bicyclists injured, and 382 bicyclists killed.
During spring 2020, while many Californians quarantined at home, motor vehicle miles traveled fell by as much as 40% compared to 2019, but today are close to pre-pandemic levels, according to Caltrans data.
While driving was declining last year, bicycle and e-bike sales were rising, as well as the popularity of cycling as a socially-distanced means of travel and exercise. Between January and October 2020, bicycle sales increased 62% in the U.S. over the prior year, and e-bikes saw an even greater increase in sales – up 144% year over year, according to NPD group which monitors retail sales trends. As a result, the total volume of cycling trips in Los Angeles jumped 93% in May 2020 compared to the same period 2019, according to Strava, a fitness tracking app.
E-bikes (battery- and pedal-powered bikes) in particular have exploded in popularity during the last year, posing additional risks for novice riders who may not realize how to safely operate them at the higher speeds they can travel.
“During National Bicycle Month, the Auto Club is urging motorists to watch for bicycles, and for riders to be extra cautious as more and more vehicles return to the road,” said Auto Club Traffic Safety and Community Programs Manager Anita Lorz-Villagrana. “More cars and more bicycles on the road means potentially more collisions.”
The Auto Club recommends the following tips to help drivers and cyclists share the road:
- Stay alert—avoid all distractions while driving.
- Yield to bicyclists when turning.
- In bad weather, give bicyclists extra passing room, just as you would other motorists.
- Make a visual check for bicyclists by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic.
- Slow down and give at least 3 feet of clearance when passing.
- Reduce your speed when passing bicyclists, especially when the road is narrow.
- NEVER honk your horn at a bicyclist—it could cause them to swerve into traffic or off the roadway and crash.
- Always check for bicyclists before opening your car door.
- Children on bicycles are often unpredictable—expect the unexpected.
- Ride on the roadway or shared pathways, rather than on sidewalks.
- Follow the same rules of the road as other roadway users, including riding in the same direction as traffic and following all the same traffic signs and signals.
- Signal all turns.
- Wear a bicycle helmet every time and on every ride. Nearly all bicyclists who died from a collision were not wearing helmets.
- Be visible by wearing bright colors during the day, reflective gear in low light conditions, and use head and tail lights at night.
- Remember that respect is a two-way street. Show motorists the same courtesy that you expect from them.