As the winter chill fades and Arizona’s typical early spring sets in, many students, athletes and weekend warriors will be hitting the roads and parks on their bikes.
A mammoth Bicycle Safety Action Plan study by the Arizona Department of Transportation, analyzing motor vehicle-bicycle crash trends, shows that knowing the rules of the road and keeping your wits about you will go a long way to avoid an accident.
However, the study also concluded that structural changes and more amenities for bicyclists will also enhance awareness and overall safety for drivers and pedalers.
There were nearly 10,000 motor vehicle‐bicycle crashes reported statewide from 2004 to 2008. Over 77 percent of study respondents listed safety concerns as a reason that they do not ride bikes more often, many of whom said a lack of bicycle lanes or wide shoulders makes them feel too unsafe to ride.
People seldom walk away from a bike accident unscathed.
In 2010, Arizona ranked seventh-highest in bicyclist fatalities per million residents. That year, 19 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle‐bicycle crashes, representing a 28 percent decrease from the previous year.
Forty-four percent of Arizona bicyclists that were in crashes suffered a non-debilitating injury, whereas 11 percent suffered a serious injury.
Surprisingly, the majority of statewide crashes analyzed in the study did not take place in inclement weather or at nighttime, nor was the automobile driver or bicyclist most often intoxicated.
The majority of crashes in the Phoenix metro area took place at or near the intersections of freeway on- and off-ramps and access roads. The city of Tempe had the fifth-highest number of crashes in the state with slightly more than 8 percent of the total incidents.
The intersection at Scottsdale Road and State Route 202 in Tempe was the scene of eight vehicle-bicycle crashes, the most prevalent intersection in the state.
In Chandler, the intersections at State Route 101 and Elliot Road, as well as State Route 87 and State Route 202, each had five crashes.
These intersections and several others were prioritized as focus areas for possible improvements to enhance safety, such as wider shoulders or conversion to roundabouts.
When the crashes in these focus areas were analyzed, it showed almost 20 percent of crashes were caused by drivers failing to give right-of-way and about 16 percent caused by bicyclists not granting right-of-way.
While the report said many of these accidents were caused by bicyclists riding on sidewalks or going the wrong way down the street, 84 percent of crashes occurred in locations with no bicycle facilities like a street shoulder or bicycle lane.
Bicyclists are legally instructed to ride along with traffic on the right-hand side of the road and drivers must grant the right-of-way to pedestrians and bicyclists in most situations.
The Bicycle Action Plan is part of a 2003 initiate to address bike safety needs and ADOT is asking residents to provide input on the plan’s finalization.
The final report for the Bicycle Safety Action Plan can be found at AZDOT.gov/mpd/systems_planning/PDF/BSAP/Final.pdf.
Comments are being accepted through Feb. 8 at the study website: AZBikePed.org/studyupdate/documents.asp.