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Bike collisions on the rise

The number of injury-accidents involving two-wheel commuters has risen in part because of the behavior of cyclists, police say.

November 08, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com
  • A bicyclist and pedestrians use the crosswalk for the Chandler Bike Path at Hollywood Way on Monday, November 7, 2011. (Roger Wilson/Staff Photographer)
A bicyclist and pedestrians use the crosswalk for the…

Burbank police say they’re concerned about an increase in the number of bicycle accidents over the past two years — a trend made all the more troublesome since the injuries have also gotten more serious.

Through October this year, police have responded to 32 injury bike collisions — more than the whole of 2007, when there were 24, and nearly as many as the 33 reported in 2008, Lt. J.J. Puglisi said.

Based on the number of complaints from the public, police are worried that the rise is due, in part, to the behavior of cyclists, such as running red lights.

“I hear a lot of complaints from the community at large about the behavior they observe of people biking through the community,” Puglisi said, adding that, combined with a lack of awareness among motorists, the mix can be volatile.

There was also an economic factor, he said.

“I think with the push [to go] green and with higher gas prices, there is some motivation to commute on bikes than in past years,” Puglisi said.

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On the Chandler Bike path, which continues to grow in popularity, some of the big concerns center on path crossings with high-traffic intersections, such as at California and Keystone streets.

“Stop signs are there, but we’ve noticed the stop signs get ignored,” Puglisi said.

On Monday afternoon, runners, dog walkers and bicyclists were among those braving the chilly temperatures along the bike path.

Monica Martinez-Olsen, who was riding her turquoise beach cruiser toward California, said she felt there were some intersections that were more dangerous than others.

“Surprisingly, they’re in the residential areas,” said Martinez-Olsen, an eight-year Burbank resident who rides the path two to three times a week.

Cyclists and motorists each think they have the right-of-way, contributing to what she said have been some pretty scary moments.

“I would say 50% of the time it’s the bike’s fault and 50% of the time it’s the car’s,” Martinez-Olsen said, adding she sees a near miss about once a month.

Puglisi said that while he supports the health benefits of cycling — and taking more cars off the road — bikers need to be aware of the vulnerabilities.

“[Bicyclists] have to realize they don’t have some of the protections afforded to you in a vehicle,” he said. “It’s imperative to stop for stop signs and traffic signals, failing to do so can lead to serious injury or even death.”

As for motorists, he said, bicycles are considered vehicles under California law and have the same entitlements to use roadways.

“We encourage [motorists] to be respectful and extra cautious in looking out for [cyclists] as they share the roadway,” Puglisi said.

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