Sacramento bike safety a factor in ridership

wwright@sacbee.comJune 26, 2014 

Mark Reddick won’t ride his bike on Stockton Boulevard, parts of Broadway or on I Street.

Still, he said he has been hit by cars while riding when drivers pulled too quickly out of alleyways.

“Driving in Sacramento, you really have to get out into the street to see if anyone’s coming, and people just don’t do that slowly enough,” said Reddick, who rides his bike daily from his home in Tahoe Park into midtown and downtown.

Reddick is one of an increasing number of bike commuters sharing area roads with cars, a number expected to increase this summer. And he’s likely to be joined by more next year, when a $4 million bike share system is implemented, according to the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District’s Bike Share Business Plan.

The number of Sacramento bike commuters jumped about 45 percent between 2005 and 2012, with about 5,000 bike commuters in 2012, according to the League of American Bicyclists, with about 3 percent of residents biking to work in 2012.

Despite a recent spate of bike accidents, the number of injuries reported yearly has remained at about 200 for more than five years. Bike commuters are most concerned about lack of biker safety on roads like Fruitridge, Stockton Boulevard and Del Paso Road, Executive Director of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates Jim Brown said.

A female bicyclist in her 40s suffered serious injuries on June 15 when she was struck by a hit-and-run driver near Woodbine Park around 4 a.m. There were 15 reported cyclist deaths from 2009 to 2013 in Sacramento, according to the Office of Traffic Safety. Among those were the March death of 70-year-old Tauvaga Tui, who was struck by a vehicle at the intersection of Mack Road and Center Parkway after Tui ran a red light, and the death of Rachel M. Martinez, 59, who was killed in October when her bicycle was struck by a Regional Transit bus at Florin Road and East Parkway in south Sacramento County.

The busy roads “discourage people from riding,” Brown said. “If they don’t perceive the streets to be safe, they’ll stay home or they’ll take a car.”

Among the efforts to ensure the safety of bike commuters is the Protected Bikeways Act, legislation that would allow protected bike lanes, separated from car traffic by a median, curb or other barrier.

The Protected Bikeways Act, Assembly Bill 1193, would add protected bike lanes to the list of approved bikeways in the California Streets and Highways Code. Under current law, protected bike lanes are not allowed.

“The concept of protected bike lanes is really hot right now,” Brown said. “We’re at this point nationally where … the toolkit that we’re using of putting bike lanes on streets has probably attracted everybody that it’s going to attract.”

The bill, authored by Assembly member Phil Ting of San Francisco, passed the State Assembly with a 58-16 vote in January and is now in the state Senate.

“That’s definitely a good precautionary measure,” Reddick said. “I consider myself a pretty savvy and capable bike rider, but … some streets can be dangerous.”

Officials and bike advocates hope the bike share system will spur more biker safety as it increases the number of bikers on city streets. The 88 station bike share system, which allows people to rent bikes at one location and return them to a station at a different part of town for a $65 annual membership, is expected to generate about 239,000 rides in its first year, according to Fehr & Peers’ Bike Share Ridership Forecasting Model.

“We would have more regular riders downtown,” said Larry Greene, executive director of the Sacramento Air Quality Management District. “Because you have more riders, you have more incentive … for the transportation folks to implement bike safety measures.”

Brown hopes that the number of new riders will help continue the bicycle safety dialogue in a city that has bike-friendly characteristics.

“It’s mostly flat, it’s got great weather … but there are conditions here that are perceived to be unsafe,” Brown said. “(The bike share system) will further drive the discussion about safety because you’re going have tourists and out-of-towners checking out bikes, too.”

Call The Bee’s Will Wright, (916) 321-1212

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