Mountain View Voice

News - September 21, 2012

Advocates seek detailed bike injury data

by Daniel DeBolt

Council candidates and cycling advocates are calling for the city to release more detail about the 203 bike-related injuries in Mountain View over the last five years.

According to data released by police, a bike-related injury occurs every nine days, on average. But important details are left out, such as whether there were injuries or if a car was involved, though that's presumably often the case in police reports. The Voice has requested additional details on the 215 collisions since Sept. 2007.

"The question is, what's the cause of the injury?" said Mayor Mike Kasperzak. "Is it because somebody rode into the curb and fell? Did they get doored? There isn't a lot of detail to know what the problem is. There is sort of an implication there's a car problem, we don't know."

Despite such questions, "even one injury is too many," Kasperzak said.

Cyclists say city officials could reduce the number of injuries with bright markings at intersections and crosswalks and by slowing traffic by reducing the width of streets such as California Street and Shoreline Boulevard, while adding special buffered bike lanes.

"The bottom line is, I think it's sobering data," Kasperzak said. "It's data we should follow up on and begin to use the data to see how we can make Mountain View an even more bicycle-friendly town."

The Silicon Valley Bike Coalition is working to get the area's cities to keep track of such data. "We have the opinion that most crashes are preventable with good infrastructure design," said Corinne Winter, the coalition's executive director.

Officials in Portland, Oregon have reported that certain types of marking in intersections have had a "significant" effect on driver and cyclist behavior when before and after video footage was studied.

On the Voice's Town Square, readers have called on the city to look to design guidelines like those created by the National Association of City Transportation Planners, shown on its website, nacto.org. Winters pointed to similar guidelines created by the Valley Transportation Authority.

Mountain View resident, cyclist and blogger Janet LaFleur mapped the data provided by police. Injuries were most likely at the intersection of two higher speed roads, though one bucked the trend: Central Expressway at Castro Street and Moffett Boulevard had no injuries reported. LaFleur credited that to "so much bike/ped traffic at that intersection that drivers are more cautious."

LaFleur left out locations where only one injury had occurred, calling them less significant and too numerous. She says she believes people bike to retail areas, explaining the high injury rates on El Camino Real and roads near San Antonio Shopping Center.

"We should be driven by this type of data in terms of how we prioritize the type of bike and pedestrian amenities we want to create," said council candidate Chris Clark. "Regardless of how angry drivers might feel, increasing numbers of folks are choosing to walk and bike. As an innovative city, we need to adapt to that over time."

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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