Following up last year’s analysis of the most dangerous bike routes in the Bay Area, a new study has just been released. It determined the most dangerous roads for cyclists in San Mateo County. With the past year’s significant increase of people riding bikes for fun and exercise, there has also been increased focus on keeping cyclists safe. Learning what makes a location dangerous for cyclists is the first step to protecting people.
The survey, which looked at data from the past five years of data from the California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records system (SWITRS), identified every bike accident in the county during that period. The accidents were rated on a weighted scale, where more severe injuries were given more consideration. With GIS software, these accidents were placed on a map to find where clusters were most common. The four most dangerous roads may not be the ones you’d think.
Ringwood Avenue and Van Buren Road in Menlo Park
According to the scale used in the study, this unassuming intersection was the most dangerous in all of San Mateo county. Why? Because of the severity of the accidents there. While only eight accidents occurred during the study period, two of them led to severe injuries.
While the exact nature of the injuries is not listed in the database, “severe” injuries generally involve hospitalization. So, though the overall number of accidents is low, a quarter of them led to potentially life-altering consequences. That makes this intersection the most dangerous in the entire county.
El Camino Real in both Redwood City and Menlo Park
The next most dangerous road was the El Camino Real. Along this road in Redwood City, more than 226 crashes occurred during the study, leading to 197 injuries. In Menlo Park, the road saw another 86 accidents and 76 biker injuries.
The difference between the two cities is notable. In both, the road sees similar amounts of traffic, but Redwood City saw nearly three times as many crashes. To combat these accidents, the city is implementing a bike safety awareness program aimed at drivers. The goal is to reduce injuries by making drivers more cautious on the roads.
Though the portion of El Camino Real that runs through Menlo Park did not see as many injuries, there’s still a problem. Menlo Park roads appear on the list of dangerous locations more than any other place in the county. This shows a general disregard for cyclist safety by drivers and local government.
California Drive in Burlingame and Willow Road in Menlo Park
Roughly tied for third in terms of danger are California Drive in Burlingame and Willow Road in Menlo Park. Both roads saw more than 30 accidents and injuries in just five years.
Most of the accidents along these two roads occurred at intersections. This is likely because most crashes of all types happen at intersections. Cyclists and pedestrians need to cross traffic, and a few seconds of driver inattention can have serious consequences.
According to the study, the single most common cause of accidents involving bikes is “automobile right of way violations.” Suppose a car ignores a traffic signal and barrels through an intersection. In that case, the pedestrians and cyclists in their way will suffer the consequences.
What Makes These Locations Dangerous
While many people blame cyclists for being in dangerous locations, most car-bicycle accidents have little to do with the rider. The study found that over the five-year period, a majority of casualties were caused by the automobile violating the right of way, turning unsafely, or speeding. Cyclists have no control over how cars nearby behave; all they can do is react.
Drivers may be at fault for these accidents, but there’s more to these dangerous roads than that. Some intersections and streets seem to encourage more reckless driver behavior.
For example, the lack of cyclist warnings at the intersection of Ringwood Avenue and Van Buren Road in Menlo Park contributes to a lack of driver attention. The crossing does indicate that a crosswalk is present, but drivers aren’t specifically warned about bikes.
Drivers should always be watching for bikes, especially in urban and suburban areas. Still, the fact is that some drivers aren’t paying attention to the road. Posting cyclist warnings in dangerous places is an easy way to reduce accidents by reminding drivers to pay attention.
Other factors that made roads and intersections dangerous include:
- Higher posted speed limits
- Larger traffic loads
- A lack of bike awareness campaigns
- The absence of bike lanes
While cyclists aren’t responsible for most of the accidents in which they’re involved, it never hurts to take some precautions. The NHTSA recommends that cyclists follow basic safety advice whenever they head out, including:
- Wear a helmet whenever you’re on your bike
- Ride a bike that fits you – not too big or too small
- Check your brakes and gears before every ride to make sure everything’s in working order
- Wear clothing that makes you visible to others, such as bright colors and reflective gear
- Make sure your bike’s reflectors are present and clean, so they work properly
- Never bike while talking on the phone or texting
- Keep your hands on the handlebars and your belongings in a backpack
- Follow the flow of traffic and general traffic laws
- Assume that drivers don’t see you
These tips can help you avoid even negligent drivers and keep yourself safe while you’re out and about.
Improving Bike Safety One Road at a Time
Now that data has been collected and analyzed regarding San Mateo County’s most dangerous locations for cyclists, it’s time for the local government to take action. Until intersections are safe for bicycles, they’re not safe for all road users. Menlo Park, in particular, needs to take action to reduce accidents as soon as possible to save lives and prevent injuries.
If you have been hurt in a San Mateo bike accident, you have company. You deserve to get the medical treatment and funds you need to get back to your normal activities. Reach out to an experienced bicycle accident attorney to talk about your options and move on with your life.