Car v. bicycle crashes: Motorists at fault just over half the time, police report says

In this week's feature, "On a Roll," we take a look at the growth of cycling in Denver and the potentially fatal consequences. As more Denver residents are hopping on bikes, tensions on the road seem to be at an all-time high -- and collisions between bikes and cars certainly are. Here, we dig deeper into a recent police report on where crashes are happening, who is at fault, and how the problem, at least by some measures, is worsening.

The August 30 "Auto / Bicycle Accidents" report, on view below in its entirety, comes from the Data Analysis Unit of the Denver Police Department; it was prepared for the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee, or MBAC, a volunteer group that advocates for better bike infrastructure and other cycling interests. The report comes after a summer that far exceeded previous years in terms of the number of bike-vehicle collisions.

As we noted in our feature, the city is preparing to launch a bike safety campaign that will seek to push positive messaging about sharing the road, following the laws, respecting cyclists, etc. The campaign was first officially discussed in August during a somewhat heated meeting between several city agencies, civic groups and bike advocates. That discussion occasionally derailed into a philosophical debate on how cities can prevent collisions, who bears the burden of this challenge, who is more often at fault and how culture around biking can change.

Many in attendance agreed on one thing: More data -- and more specific data -- would help everyone better understand the problem.

At that time, MBAC was already asking DPD for this information, and a few weeks later, the department released the report to the coalition.

Here are some key findings:

• Auto/bicycle accidents have been on an increasing trend over the past ten years. Year-to-date, auto/bicycle accidents have increased 13.2 percent over a ten-year average.

• Accidents in May and June this year were significantly higher than the average for those months over the last ten years.

• In 2011, the top three neighborhoods for auto/bicycle accidents were: Lincoln Park, Capitol Hill and City Park West.

• The top three neighborhoods for auto/bicycle accidents from January through August 23, 2012 were Five Points, Capitol Hill and Civic Center.

• Over a ten-year average, 61 percent of accidents occurred between noon and 7 p.m.

• The majority of auto/bicycle accidents occur on weekdays.

• The majority of violations written for bicycle infractions were: bicycles subject to traffic control devices and bicycles subject to traffic laws.

• The highest number of violations for citations tied to auto/bicycle crashes were bicycles subject to traffic laws and riding on the sidewalk.

• Motorists are at fault slightly over 50 percent of the time in auto/bicycle accidents.

Continue for analysis of these findings and more specifics from the DPD report.
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Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin

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