Here at Treehugger we often extoll the virtues of the the bicycle. At the same time, we offer up many tips to ensure that the trips our readers take by bike are both enjoyable and safe. Still, two facts remain: not enough people are riding their bikes, and too many cyclists get injured on the roads. The assumption is that in crashes involving cyclists and motorists, it is usually the motorist's fault. However, at least in Santa Cruz, California, that does not appear to be the case. According to Saskia Lucas, a bicycle commuter and instructor at Santa Cruz's new bike traffic school, "bicyclists are at fault in at least half of all bike vs. vehicle accidents."
The purpose of the traffic school is to allow cyclists that have been ticketed for running through a stop sign or riding at night without lights to "go to traffic school to avoid a hefty fine -- and pick up some safety pointers."Cyclists can pay anywhere from $100 to $200 per ticket, depending on the infraction. By attending the two-hour bicycle safety class (which costs $35) the cyclist can save money and, potentially, save his or her own life by learning essential safety tips. The need for these types of courses is high: in 2006, Santa Cruz County police recorded 154 bicycle injuries. "'We're a university town with a lot of bikes on the road and a lot of injuries,' said Corinne Hyland of the county health department. 'We want to capture that audience and give them some education.'"
The classes are given once a month, and have been very successful in educating cyclists about basic safety tips and the rules of the road. Saskia Lukas says that "a lot of the people who come to the class are surprised by the information, and they come away with concrete illustrations on how to be a better rider."
These types of programs will help in the 50% of cases where the cyclist is at fault. Now all that's needed is better education for drivers, better signage and more lanes for cyclists, and increased awareness all around that cyclists have the same rights--and obligations--as motorists. What's scary is that 50% of the cases are caused by drivers, and regardless of who is at fault, the fact of the matter is that in a crash the driver will always fare better than the cyclist (well, almost always).
As things stand now, there are a lot of people interested in bicycle commuting that haven't tried it out for fear of riding on the roads. The Santa Cruz program is a baby step toward helping to get them on their bikes.
See Also: ::Toronto's Love/Hate Relationship with Bikes, ::Cycle Commuting, Bike Buses and SUV Accidents, ::Cycle Lanes: Use Them Or Else, ::Helmets--for whom? Cyclists or Motorists?, ::It's More Dangerous NOT To Ride a Bike, ::Winter Tips For Summer Bicycle Trips: Part 1, ::Winter Tips For Summer Bicycle Trips: Part 2, ::Got a SuperComputer? Run it By Bicycle!, ::World's Smallest and Lightest Folding Bicycle, ::Guerrilla Bike Activists and ::Getting Students to Walk it Out