Bike-vehicle crashes mounting

Bicyclists and vehicles in Laguna Beach ran into one another at a greater rate through the first five months of this year compared with last year, according to police data.

From Jan. 1 through May 19, seven crashes involving bicyclists and moving vehicles were reported, according to Laguna Beach Police Department statistics.

Last year, the city didn't see that many until Nov. 4, police said. For all of 2012, eight crashes were reported.

While bicycle-vehicle crashes made up only 2% of the city's total reported crashes, which include car-car, car-pedestrian and car-wall, police Capt. Jason Kravetz said bike-related crashes often result in injuries to the bicyclist.

"Do not assume all motorists can see you," he said. "In this day and age, the driver may not be paying attention. They could be looking at the ocean, at another car, or texting."

Four of this year's crashes have occurred since March 23, and all the bicyclists involved were injured, statistics show.

Bicyclists were hospitalized in two of the four crashes, according to reports. One cyclist suffered a broken collar bone after colliding with a vehicle he or she was trying to pass at South Coast Highway and Ocean Avenue, police said.

"Laguna's stretch of Coast Highway is very dangerous for cyclists," Chris Prelitz, the chairman of the city's Complete Streets Task Force, who rides into downtown twice per week, wrote in an email. "We need signage directing cyclists to the safest route through town, which most riders agree is Glenneyre [Street]."

Though no area of the city is known as a hot spot for bicycle accidents, of this year's seven, two occurred in the 600 block of Coast Highway and two others on Temple Hills Drive, according to the data.

"I'm surprised there's not a lot more," said Nick Hernandez, who lives in north Laguna.

He rides his bike two or three times a week, often from his home to play tennis at the courts next to the Festival of Arts.

Hernandez sticks to "back streets," avoiding Coast Highway as much as possible.

"I see packs of bikers coming through morning, afternoon and evening [on Coast Highway]," Hernandez said. "If you stay off the main streets, [traffic] is not too bad."

All of this year's crashes happened during daylight hours — the earliest occurred at 9:36 a.m. while the latest happened at 6:45 p.m. — according to police records.

A variety of events led to the crashes.

In one case, a car hit a bicyclist, who then hit a parked car, according to reports. The bicyclist was not injured.

In another case, a bicyclist rode through the intersection and hit a vehicle as it was turning, police said.

In the 15 bike-vehicle crashes since Jan. 1, 2012, the bicyclist was at fault four times, Kravetz said.

The number of crashes are a reminder that Laguna's streets serve a variety of people — drivers, bicyclists and skateboarders.

"People have got to share the road," Kravetz said.

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