Recent deaths shake cycling community

2012-09-18T19:52:00Z 2012-09-19T21:24:28Z Recent deaths shake cycling communityKEVIN COURTNEY Napa Valley Register
September 18, 2012 7:52 pm  • 

Two bicyclists have died on Napa County roads so far this year, shaking the confidence of many local riders, said Mike Costanzo, executive director of the Napa County Bicycle Coalition.

“Some cyclists say, ‘I say a little prayer before I head out,’” Costanzo said.

Rather than have cyclists live in fear, the coalition — known as Napa Bike — is mounting a safety awareness campaign to give riders greater confidence when they hit the road.

“Be BRIGHT — Drive Smart, Ride Smart” is intended to promote safety by encouraging cyclists and motorists to treat each other with greater respect, Costanzo said.

The campaign urges cyclists to wear bright clothing and use front and back lights even during the day. Most of all, riders need to pedal predictably and defensively, he said. Don’t count on the motorist seeing you, he said.

Over a recent three-month period, two cyclists were killed in collisions with motor vehicles on Napa County highways, according to Officer Garrett Ray of the California Highway Patrol’s Napa office. During the preceding two-year period there were no deaths, he said.

In May, Alfredo Pedroza, 56, of Napa was killed while cycling on Silverado Trail when a car drifted out of its lane at more than 50 mph, according to the CHP.

In mid-August, Richard Becker, 54, of St. Helena was killed on Deer Park Road when a motorist made a left-hand turn in front of him, the CHP said.

For every fatality, there are scores of minor accidents and near-misses that can make even avid cyclists anxious about their personal safety, Costanzo said.

There were 24 bike injuries between January 2010 and the present on county roads in the CHP’s jurisdiction, Ray said, indicating that included some solo bike incidents. According to Napa police, 82 accidents involving bicyclists have reported within the city limits in that same time period.

Costanzo conceded that cyclists put themselves in harm’s way when they do not follow the rules of the road. “A lot of the angst between motorist and cyclist is the fault of the cyclist” who does unsafe things, he said.

The situation would be improved if both motorists and cyclists regarded each other with “mutual courtesy,” Costanzo said.

At the seminar, Jack Holmgren, who lost a friend in a bike fatality on Solano Avenue several years ago, will present strategies for cyclists to be more visible on their bikes.

Napa Bike is looking for sponsors for a public safety campaign that would use billboards and other advertising to encourage motorists and cyclists to do a better job of sharing the road.

Local bicyclists are supporting a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk that would require motorists to give bicycle riders three feet of clearance when passing from behind.

Failure to give a cyclist three feet of separation would be an infraction with a base fine of $35.

The “Three Feet for Safety Act” would impose a $220 fine if a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicycle causing injury to the cyclist.

The bill has been amended since passing the Legislature and being vetoed by the governor last year.

In last year’s version, a motorist who could not give three feet of clearance was required to slow to 15 mph when passing. The revised bill only requires a motorist to slow to a “reasonable and prudent speed” when passing within the three-foot margin.

According to the California Bicycle Coalition, passing-from-behind collisions aren’t the most common type of car-bike accident, but they are the most deadly.

Napa Bike supports Senate Bill 1464, as do Napa County’s legislators, Assemblymember Michael Allen and state Sen. Noreen Evans.

The bill would allow motorists on two-lane highways to drive to the left of double solid yellow or double solid white lines to pass a cyclist under certain conditions.

The current law tells drivers to pass cyclists at a “safe distance,” but this term is ambiguous, cycling advocates say.

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(19) Comments

  1. Cadence
    Report Abuse
    Cadence - September 19, 2012 6:48 am
    Maybe this picture's angle is skewed. If not - why aren't the cyclists single file? Why is one cyclist way over next the line of paint that separates her from the vehicles, forcing the van to straddle the center line?

    Really, this picture has all of the ingredients for a bicycle/vehicle accident, one of the hundreds that don't happen every day because alert drivers take evasive action.

    Hint to cyclists: not all drivers are alert - they text, they yak, they reprimand children - and the bill will not suddenly make them all alert. You have a role as well - ride single file and please don't put yourselves in harms way.
  2. Bryan Poli
    Report Abuse
    Bryan Poli - September 19, 2012 7:18 am
    Google Maps shows Silverado Trail between Lincoln and Monticello Road as a bicycle route and currently there are bicycles present on this route. This area needs to have painted "sharrows" on the roadway to alert motorists to watch for bicycle. In this area on blind turns it is best for the bicycle to take the roadway in attempt to slow the car until such time it is safe to allow the car to pass. The bicycle must take offensive action to slow the traffic.

    See you in San Franciso
  3. Angrytoo
    Report Abuse
    Angrytoo - September 19, 2012 8:13 am
    I try and be polite and share the road but cyclists need to do the same. I passed a cyclist starting out on Jameson Canyon the other day. There is a wall on the white line headed to Napa and he was cruising along. That was a head on accident waiting to happen.
  4. prinzrob
    Report Abuse
    prinzrob - September 19, 2012 8:29 am
    Looks to me like both of the cyclists are on a wide shoulder or bike lane, not on the roadway. The solid white line you are referring to is the fog line designating the right edge of the travel lane, no neither of the cyclists in the picture are in anyone's way. If that was a divider line it would either be dashed white or a solid yellow.

    Furthermore, there is nothing in the CA vehicle code mandating that cyclists ride single file. I agree that it is courteous to single up if a group is holding up traffic and there is no safe place to pass, but that is very different than a legal obligation.

    I also agree that people on bikes should try to remin vigilant, aware of their surroundings, and remain as visible and predictable as possible, but shouldn't we also have an expectation for drivers to do the same and then some? I agree that many folks driving cars are very apathetic about safety, but I don't agree that cyclists should be the ones held accountable for their failures.
    Report Abuse
    JUSTBOYS - September 19, 2012 8:46 am
    What??? Are you saying that the bicycle needs to slow down traffic because google maps shows these roads as a bicycle route??? Have you been on these roads???
    Both cars and bikes need to respect each other...Most bike riders think they are cars and put themselves in harms way...Just saying
  6. monstermom
    Report Abuse
    monstermom - September 19, 2012 9:30 am
    There is an arrogance among cyclist but no one deserves to get hurt or die. There's also a huge problem with cyclist not riding single file. Everyone needs to do what's necessary to help protect themselves.
  7. selim_sivad
    Report Abuse
    selim_sivad - September 19, 2012 10:09 am
    The auto/cycle relationship is definitely a two way street (no pun intended).

    Automobile drivers need to realize that they are sharing the road, be considerate, slow down a tad and PAY ATTENTION. I'm not a frequent bike rider at all...mostly because I don't trust the other people behind the wheel any further than I can throw them. I remember riding my bike to school all the time when I was a kid and can't imagine letting my kid do the same now. Drivers are astoundingly bad today.

    It also means that bicyclists need to use their heads, too. Common courtesy is a give & take proposition. Just because you CAN ride a certain way (legally or otherwise) doesn't mean it's a good idea to do so. Ride single file as to avoid impacting auto traffic. STOP AT ALL STOP SIGNS AND LIGHTS. Signal your turns. Stay as far right as you can in the bike lane. Yes, you can legally be as far left as you want within your lane, but it isn't smart.

    A few small changes can make things so much better.
  8. napa1957
    Report Abuse
    napa1957 - September 19, 2012 11:40 am
    All the legislation in the world won't help in situations such as the older gentleman who was hit on Soscol by someone allegedly "impaired". I'm sure this has gone to trial, but we have seen no followup at all.
  9. Mouse_Nose
    Report Abuse
    Mouse_Nose - September 19, 2012 12:13 pm
    ".....there is nothing in the CA vehicle code mandating that cyclists ride single file."

    Not specifically mentioned but implied. There is the keep right law for slower moving objects. That means if a group of two or three abreast bikes are holding up traffic, they're breaking the law and need to move right to allow faster vehicles to pass, thus meaning single file is necessary.

    "......I don't agree that cyclists should be the ones held accountable for their failures."

    Oh really?? Like the ones who run stop signs, red lights, illegally dart across busy roads, etc? Take a look at this Napa bad drivers video showing reckless bicyclists breaking the law and you come back and tell me that they shouldn't be held accountable:

    Start watching at the 5:17 point in his/her video. Pretty amusing stuff they publish!
  10. Cadence
    Report Abuse
    Cadence - September 19, 2012 12:20 pm
    prinz, I doubt many drivers could recite the vehicle code to you. The CHP isn't everywhere all the time. If the van driver in the picture had looked away at the wrong time - looked down to text, for instance - he very possibly would have clipped the cyclist. Sure, hold the driver accountable, but the cyclist would be in a world of hurt.
    I know everyone means well, sharrows and kumbaya, but generally vehicles do far more damage to cyclists than the other way around.
    Btw, I drive a small car and I give semis a wide berth. Legally I don't have to but I value my health more than my righteousness.
  11. rikirocket12
    Report Abuse
    rikirocket12 - September 19, 2012 8:13 pm
    its simple cyclists need to take a class on how to ride .if motorcyclist have to so should cyclist .im very surpise only 2 have died im always dodging the bike rider they think they own the road when i rode i knew single line only .obey the law and pay attenion
  12. NapaDriver
    Report Abuse
    NapaDriver - September 19, 2012 8:45 pm
    I'm all for people getting exercise riding bikes and saving the enviorment, but not on roads that clearly don't have a bike lane. I'd love to roads improved for all to share and maybe to help pay for that is a bicycle registration just like cars and that money goes towards road improvements like bicycle lanes. It's just as dangerous for cars as bicycles sharing the road when bicycles either ride side by side or directly on the white line, forcing motorist to move outside their lane into on coming traffic. If there isn't a bike lane, then bikes shouldn't be there, for everyones safety.
  13. Bob F
    Report Abuse
    Bob F - September 19, 2012 10:07 pm
    I follow these kinds of stories with great interest. I have been visiting Napa for over 24 years since my wife is from Napa and we visit her family who still lives in Napa. I am an avid cyclist and I always bring my bike to ride in the area. The 2 gentlemen who were killed this year are my age, serious sounding athletics not a clueless young person riding recklessly. Best I can tell from the news stories they were both riding legally and predictably but yet both were killed by a driver’s negligent.
    The Napa Valley and surrounding area should be more focused on cyclist safety and not trying to get them off the roads. If a cyclist rides incorrectly ticket them, just as you would a driver. Napa is often mentioned as a destination area for bike riding. Wouldn’t you rather see more bikes on Silverado Trail than more cars?
    Bob Fisher
    Spokane, WA
  14. billdsd
    Report Abuse
    billdsd - September 20, 2012 8:44 am
    There is no law requiring single file.

    Irresponsible drivers who text, yak, reprimand children from driving should have their licenses taken away.

    Bicyclists have a right to use the road. IT'S THE LAW! Get over it.
  15. billdsd
    Report Abuse
    billdsd - September 20, 2012 8:48 am
    Sharrows indicate that bicyclists are allowed to use the full lane. Sharrows are nearly always located in places where it is unsafe for bicycles and cars to travel side by side within the lane.

    It is not the point of sharrows to "slow the car" as you say. The point is to make bicyclists more visible and avoid hazards that arise from riding on the far right. This may require motorists to slow down sometimes but many times, they just have to move into the next lane to pass.

    Riding in the middle of the lane is NOT offensive action. It is a defensive action. It perfectly fits the principles of defensive driving because it avoids getting into dangerous situations in the first place.
  16. Cadence
    Report Abuse
    Cadence - September 20, 2012 10:46 am
    The headline says the recent deaths have shaken the cycling community.
    Maybe, but obviously not enough for some in the cycling community to consider how they might reduce their own odds of becoming another needless headline. They'd rather argue legality, a very elastic concept in California.

    (And BobF? Um, no, if we have less cars on the Trail, we will have that many more on Hwy 29. Hwy 29 is already at capacity and we're gonna build ALL of Napa's affordable housing here in town - really, we need space for a lot more cars to get those workers to and from their upvalley jobs, not less! Now whether we get the space or not is irrelevant; we WILL get the increased numbers of vehicles. I'd be very careful if I were daring enough to ride on the Silverado Trail.)
  17. Bryan Poli
    Report Abuse
    Bryan Poli - September 20, 2012 10:04 pm
    Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, told the MTA board of directors on Tuesday:

    “… the leading cause of behavior change, when it comes to encouraging more people to bike, and encouraging more people to bike safely and respectfully, is infrastructure. It is making safer streets.”


    See you in San Francisco
  18. Orual
    Report Abuse
    Orual - September 20, 2012 11:24 pm
    There are far more videos on YouTube posted by crazy dangerous people doing ridiculous thing in their cars than their are ones posted by dangerous cyclists.

    The videos like the one you linked doesn't represent how the cyclists in Napa bike anymore than those posted by wannabe stunt drivers in cars represent the way you, or anyone else in Napa, drive.
  19. Leo624
    Report Abuse
    Leo624 - September 25, 2012 2:26 pm
    How about the driver's of CARS??!! I ride my bike almost every day, and yesterday while out for a ride I almost got it by a pickup running through a red light at 3rd Street and Coombsville Road. It was way green for me - and as I looked up there was a truck 3 feet from me barrelling through the intersection. If I hadn't swerved radically to my right I would not be here posting this today!!!
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick