In efforts to help make bicycling safer in L.A. County, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has received a California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) grant and is working with local non-profit bike organizations to conduct up to120 free English and Spanish traffic skills classes countywide.
The $203,000 grant, awarded earlier this year to Metro by the California OTS through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will fund bicycle traffic skills classes for prospective or experienced cyclists alike who are interesting in increasing their bicycle traffic skills.
Metro has contracted with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), Bike San Gabriel Valley (BikeSGV) and Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM) to conduct three- or eight-hour weekend classes through September 2013.
“With bicycling becoming wildly popular in L.A. County, it is critically important that our cyclists know the safe ways to ride their bikes on busy L.A. streets, whether for work, school or recreation,” said Diane DuBois, Metro board chair. “Metro is taking a leadership role for the county in offering these traffic safety classes, so be sure to sign up if you are interested, as classes are filling up fast.”
Metro plans to reach up to 1,440 people for the classes. Each participant will receive a safety manual, helmet and bicycle lights for successfully completing the course. Classes will be taught in cities throughout Los Angeles County, including L.A., Culver City, La Verne and Azusa. Participants must be 18 years or older and be L.A. County residents.
“Bicycling for exercise, pleasure and commuting is a growing trend in California. Unfortunately, so are crashes involving bicyclists,” said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy. “Help ensure a long, safe bicycling career by learning the valuable lessons and techniques being offered by these Metro-sponsored classes.”
LACBC will host 30 eight-hour classes, 30 three-hour classes, and one advanced-level seminar. BikeSGV will provide 30 three-hour classes, and MCM will teach 30 three-hour Spanish language courses.
"With the help of Metro and OTS, Multicultural Communities for Mobility will be able to continue to conduct Spanish bicycle safety courses throughout the county of Los Angeles to the most vulnerable of cyclists who ride their bicycle as a means of necessity,” said Andy Rodriguez, League Certified Instructor. “Our work with low-income communities is positively impacted by this grant and we hope to save lives and teach people safe cycling skills."
The curriculum for each class focuses on bicycle traffic skills and practicing on-road riding. The first portion of each class will be in the classroom, with the second portion in a parking lot, and third portion on the road. The material taught will follow the League of American Bicyclists Traffic Skills 101 curriculum, which was abridged for the 3-hour courses.
The number of miles driven in the United Stated has dropped each year since 2005 and fewer young adults are getting driving licenses. Concurrently, bicycling is on the rise in L.A. County. From 2005 to 2012, bikeway facilities within L.A. County have increased 14 percent, raising the bikeway miles from about 1,252 to 1,428 miles. And the total number of bikeway miles continues to increase as cities rapidly grow their bicycle networks. In the past year alone, the City of Los Angeles has grown its bike lane network by 101 miles. With increases in bicycling, crashes involving injury and death have also slightly risen. In 2010, for example, Los Angeles County had 25 fatalities and 4,201 injuries in a total of 4,226 bicycle collisions. In 2008 and 2009, Los Angeles County ranked fifth out of 58 by daily miles travelled for injuries and fatalities in California. A review of the causes of these crashes illustrates that over half could have been prevented by the proper utilization of techniques taught in standard bicycle safety education curricula.
“LACBC is proud partner with Metro and OTS to offer in-depth, hands-on bicycle skills training that people can use for safe transportation and recreational riding,” said Colin Bogart, Education Director for the LACBC. “These classes give bicyclists the tools to assess and manage the potential risks of riding in an urban setting, so they can freely ride anywhere with confidence.”
“BikeSGV is proud to partner with Metro in an effort to raise awareness about legally and safely operating a bicycle on public streets,” said Javier Hernandez, program director. “The 'Need to Know' workshops are an important step toward educating the public that bicyclists are indeed entitled to share the road with motored vehicles while informing cyclists about the rules of the road.”
In efforts to raise awareness for cycling safety, earlier this year Metro also launched the "Every Lane is a Bike Lane" campaign that encouraged motorists to share the road with cyclists and give them a full traffic lane if needed. The popular campaign helped raise motorist awareness that cyclists have equal rights and responsibilities to the road per the California Vehicle Code. The campaign included messages on the back of Metro buses, billboards and spots on local radio stations.
Additionally, Metro is sponsoring 20 bike rides to further promote safe cycling in Los Angeles County. The rides focus on safe bicycling etiquette, rules of the road and basic maintenance. Each ride is led by a trained guide who will not only point out places of interest, but will instruct riders how to negotiate live traffic lanes and bike paths. Before each ride, participants are given a “safety workshop” so they learn safe road bicycling along the route and practice proper methods of taking a bike on public transit.