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Sharing the Road

Rudi Stephan rides along Highway 89 east of the Flagstaff Mall on his way to work in this August 2015 file photo. Stephan commutes from Timberline to downtown Flagstaff every weekday.

There was very little change in the number of bicycle collisions reported in Flagstaff this fall despite a targeted bike safety initiative led by Flagstaff Police Department.

From August to October last year, Flagstaff Police Department responded to 29 collisions involving bicycles and vehicles, 16 of which resulted in injuries. That prompted FPD’s Traffic Unit to launch a three-month bicycle safety initiative.

So from the beginning of August this year until the campaign wrapped up at the end of October, officers handed out 101 traffic citations involving bicycles, up from just 14 during the same three-month period in 2014.

But there were still 28 crashes involving bicycles and motor vehicles, which was just one fewer than last year. The number of injury accidents also fell by only one – from 16 to 15.

Both years, vehicle drivers were found to be at fault about half the time and cyclists were at fault the other half.

The timing of the campaign was not an accident. FPD spokesperson Sgt. Margaret Bentzen said collisions between motorists and cyclists happen year-round, but things can get particularly dicey when the influx of college students puts more cars and bikes on the road every fall.

The initiative included increased enforcement of bicycle safety laws, a push to get cyclists to register their bikes so they could be easily returned if stolen, and education for both cyclists and drivers.

The enforcement side of FPD’s bicycle safety initiative involved heavier patrols of locations where the most collisions occur: downtown Flagstaff, the Southside neighborhood, Milton Road and, to a lesser extent, the Sunnyside neighborhood. Some of the violations the officers were looking for included biking against traffic, cyclists who turned left from the right side of the road and vehicles turning in front of cyclists. FPD also partnered with Flagstaff Municipal Court, the Flagstaff City Attorney’s Office and Flagstaff Biking Organization to offer a free Flagstaff Bike Safety Diversion Program.

Under Arizona and Flagstaff law, cyclists are subject to the same traffic laws as motorists. In addition, they are required to stay as far to the right of the roadway as safely practicable. In some parts of town, there is signage allowing cyclists to take an entire lane.

Cyclists under 18 years old in Flagstaff must wear a helmet, although Needham and Quintile recommend them for all riders. In addition, bicycles must have a front light and rear red reflector when traveling at night.

In exchange, vehicles must provide at least three feet of space when overtaking a bicycle.

FPD and Flagstaff Biking Organization have disseminated bike safety information on social media and their websites. Additional resources are available on the League of American Bicyclists website at bikeleague.org.

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The reporter can be reached at mmcmanimon@azdailysun.com or 556-2261.
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