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Rise in number of bicycle accidents has Burbank concerned

Burbank police say they’re concerned about an increase in the number of bicycle accidents over the last two years.

Through October of this year, police have responded to 32 injury bike collisions — more than in all of 2007, when there were 24, and nearly as many as the 33 reported in 2008, Lt. J.J. Puglisi said.

Based on the number of complaints from the public, police are worried that the rise is in part a result of cyclist behavior, such as running red lights.

“I hear a lot of complaints from the community at large about the behavior they observe of people biking,” Puglisi said, adding that, combined with a lack of awareness by motorists, the mix can be volatile.

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The economy and environmental concerns also appeared to be factors. Puglisi said more people were commuting by bicycle to work this year than in years past because of higher fuel prices and a push to go “green.”

On the Chandler bike path, which is increasingly popular, the concerns of cyclists focused on path crossings at high-traffic intersections, such as at California and Keystone streets.

“Stop signs are there, but we’ve noticed the stop signs get ignored,” Puglisi said.

On a recent weekday afternoon, runners, dog walkers and bicyclists were among those braving chilly temperatures along the bike path.

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Monica Martinez-Olsen, who was riding her turquoise beach cruiser toward California Street, said she felt that some intersections were more dangerous than others.

“Surprisingly, they’re in the residential areas,” said Martinez-Olsen, an eight-year Burbank resident who rides the path two or three times a week.

Cyclists and motorists each think they have the right of way, contributing to what she said have been some pretty scary moments.

“I would say 50% of the time it’s the bike’s fault and 50% of the time it’s the car’s,” Martinez-Olsen said, adding that she sees a near miss about once a month.

Puglisi said that although he supports the health benefits of cycling — and taking more cars off the road — bike riders need to be aware of the vulnerabilities.

Cyclists “have to realize they don’t have some of the protections afforded to you in a vehicle,” he said. “It’s imperative to stop for stop signs and traffic signals. Failing to do so can lead to serious injury or even death.”

As for motorists, he said, bicycles are considered vehicles under California law and have the same right to use the roads.

“We encourage [motorists] to be respectful and extra cautious in looking out for [cyclists] as they share the roadway,” Puglisi said.

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maria.hsin@latimes.com


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