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Here's Why Bikes And Cars Collide (And Who's To Blame)

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Bikers are often at fault because they ride on the wrong side of the road (Photo by Rob Rovira via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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When it comes to crashes betweens cars and bikes, some clear patterns emerge—and you might be surprised to know that many crashes come down to simply traveling on the wrong side of the road. In 2012, CHP data shows there were 5,090 crashes between a car and a bike, KPCC reports. Of those, police found that the biker was at fault 2,759 times. The driver was at fault 1,878 times and there was something else to blame 453 times.

By far, the most common reason a cyclist has been declared at fault is that he or she was riding on the wrong side of the road. This reason accounts for half of those incidents. Other reasons include failing to yield, ignoring traffics signs, incorrectly turning or going too fast. While it might seem like common knowledge that a cyclist is meant to ride with, not against, traffic, there may be a reason why it's so commonly ignored. L.A. County Bike Coalition's Colin Bogart thinks that people may be afraid that they'll be hit from behind, so they ride opposite traffic. Plus, some people have been taught to ride against traffic because they think it's safer. The data shows that it's not.

When drivers are at fault, the most common reason is failing to yield, followed by improperly turning, disobeying signs or signals, unspecified violations or driving too fast. One common yielding hazard is when drivers don't check for cyclists before making a right turn.

The L.A. County Bike Coalition helps to teach cyclists and drivers how to better share the road with one another. They work with LAPD to hand out lights to cyclists, helping bikers to comply with the state law that bikes must have both a rear reflector and a light on the front so that motorists can see them.

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The California Bike Coalition is working to change legislature that it believes may help educate the public in bike safety. In other states, people who get citations can lower their fines by attending classes on bike safety. In California, however, it's legal to take a class to reduce points on a license, but not to lower a fine. Cyclists don't need licenses to ride bikes, so they don't have points to worry about. The CBC is currently trying to find a sponsor to change this law.

For now, LAPD Officer Mike Flynn told KPCC that the best rule of thumb for motorists and cyclists is to act like both are cars. Bikes should follow the same rules as cars, and drivers should consider bikes their equals in traffic.

You can also take classes on bike safety at LACBC or Santa Monica Spoke, and you can look at the state bike laws via CBC here.