California is a progressive state known for its environmental consciousness. We like to make fun of rich Prius drivers who live in energy hungry McMansions, but it's true that many everyday Angelenos try to do their part.
Chief among them are bicyclists who commute. There's been a 62 percent increase in Americans who get to work by bike since the year 2000, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
That's good for the planet. But it also correlates to more cyclist deaths in a big, allegedly bike-friendly state like California.
The GHSA's Bicyclist Safety report, released this week, found that we had the most bike-rider deaths between 2010 and 2012. The number is 338.
Florida came in second (329), followed by Texas (143), New York (138), Illinois (80), and Michigan (72). The report says these six states accounted for 54 percent of American bicyclist fatalities during that time.
On the other hand, nearly half our states, 23 to be exact, averaged five or fewer deaths per year from 2010 to 2012, the report found.
During that time California had one of the largest increases (23 percent) in the nation in bicyclist deaths. We were beat out only by Florida's 37 percent increase, according to GHSA.
Adjusting for population, California had the second-highest death rate (4.3 percent, a tie with Massachusetts) among riders, the report said. Florida came in first with 5 percent.
The number of bike riders killed on the road has been on the upswing nationwide, however, so our problems are America's problems.
Two-thirds of American fatalities were not wearing helmets, the report says. More than one-fourth of those who died had been drinking. Eighty-eight percent of fatalities were men.
About 69 percent of bicyclist deaths now happen in big cities, GHSA says, and California is home to some of the biggest.
Former Insurance Institute for Highway Safety chief scientist Allan Williams, who wrote the report, analyzed crash data from across the nation. The deadliest regions, he says, include …
… high population states with many urban centers, and likely reflect a high level of bicycle exposure and interaction with motor vehicles.
What to do? Jonathan Adkins, GHSA's executive director, has this list:
… Educating bicyclists and motorists, promoting helmet use, enforcing motor vehicle laws and implementing infrastructure changes.