California has been fighting a rising wave of bike accidents for several years. In 2020, the state hit a 25-year high in bike fatalities, and 2021 is not shaping up to be any different. In the past two months, several high-profile bike crashes took place, many of which tragically led to the deaths of the riders.
While every biking death is tragic, they also offer learning opportunities for other cyclists. Learning from past bicycle accidents is the best way to avoid or reduce the risk of future deaths. From accidents in the mountains to impacts with civilian and police vehicles alike, here’s the breakdown of just some of the recent, often-deadly accidents that have affected California cyclists and what might have mitigated them.
Tom Trauger, CFO of Sports Basement, and 4 Other Cyclists Killed in Truck Crash
On December 10th, one of the most deadly single bicycle accidents in recent years led to the death of triathlete and Bay Area sporting goods chain CFO Tom Trauger. He was taking part in a bike tour with twenty other cyclists and an escort vehicle.
While biking along the side of US 95, a box truck struck Trauger and six other cyclists along with the escort vehicles they were riding behind. Five people, including Trauger, were killed in the crash, and three others were injured. Tom regularly completed 100-mile bicycle rides and was following standard bike safety precautions when he died.
This is a sobering reminder that even the most experienced, well-prepared cyclists are at risk while biking. Trauger had made the bike tour yearly; he knew the route and took appropriate precautions. However, a single negligent driver led to a quarter of his cycling group’s deaths in a split second.
Just because the precautions the group took weren’t wholly effective does not mean that they were entirely in vain, though. If the escort vehicle had not blocked the truck’s path, it seems likely that more of the cyclists would have been hit and injured or killed.
Two Unnamed Cyclists Injured by On-Duty SFPD Office Allegedly Running a Red Light
Negligent drivers can be found in every walk of life, of course. A December 4th accident showed that the police are just as likely to cause serious bicycle accidents as civilians. A San Francisco police officer allegedly ran a red light and caused a crash with two cyclists. While neither cyclist was killed, both suffered severe injuries. The officer was not recorded as using his sirens or lights when running the red light, indicating that he was responsible for following standard traffic laws and was possibly negligent in running the red.
Even when they follow traffic rules, cyclists are still highly at risk from other road users. Accidents in which on-duty police officers injure cyclists are not uncommon. The cyclists themselves can only do so much to protect themselves in these situations. When law enforcement officials are found actively violating traffic safety laws, it becomes time to hold those officials accountable for the pain and suffering they cause to bicycle accident victims.
Roy Wallack, Cycling Journalist, Killed in Mountain Bike Crash
While cycling in the Santa Monica mountains on December 19th, Roy Wallack crashed badly and hit his head. Wallack was an experienced cyclist and wrote and editors for publications including Triathlete, Bicycle Guide, California Bicyclist, Outside, Bicycling, Men’s Journal, VeloNews, BRAIN, and the LA Times. Wallack may have been in the middle of a medical emergency during the crash. He was also wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
Wallack’s death occurred while biking with friends. In rugged terrain like the Santa Monica mountain trail they were riding, even experienced riders can do everything right and still face injuries or death. It may be due to someone else’s negligence or, as with Wallack, something beyond anyone’s control. This unpredictability makes taking appropriate safety precautions even more critical. While a helmet didn’t save Wallack’s life, it may make all the difference in another accident.
Unnamed Man Dies in Rio Del Mar Electric Bike Accident
While unpowered bicycles have their dangers, electric bicycles may be even worse. The increased speed and power of these bikes pose risks that many riders are not prepared to handle. In an accident on January 23rd, an unnamed man crashed his electric bike while riding it on the road. He veered into the median, was thrown into traffic, and died at the scene from injuries caused by the accident. According to current reports, the man was not intoxicated.
The man was riding an electric bike meant for trails and off-roading, not for city streets. This may have been a contributing factor to the accident. Electric bikes like the Sur Run model he was riding can reach speeds up to 50 miles per hour. Furthermore, they are often designed to find traction on rough terrain. Riding the bike on smooth roads may have led to the man losing control over the bicycle and led to his death.
Regardless of your preferred style of bike, this accident is a reminder to be careful and ride bikes only on the terrain for which they are designed. Had the rider veered the other direction, onto the sidewalk, he could have seriously injured pedestrians in the accident as well.
Cycle Safely This Spring
California is in the middle of a wave of bicycle accidents. There are all too many ways a cyclist can die unexpectedly from car crashes to dangerous biking conditions. That makes it more critical than ever for anyone who rides a bike to take precautions and stay safe.
You can’t prevent every accident, but you can do your best to reduce your risk. However, if you’ve already been hurt in a bike accident, reach out to a qualified bicycle accident attorney. They can help you prove that you were not at fault for your accident and help you receive the compensation you deserve. California roads may not be safe, but they should be; holding other road users accountable for their actions is one way to help make that the case.