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State report: Newport rates high in bike accidents

The city ranks third in deaths and injuries among 103 similarly sized cities. Two cyclists were killed in two days last week.

September 21, 2012|By Jill Cowan and Lauren Williams

As the Newport Beach community mourned two cyclists killed within two days, concerns about cycling safety have resurfaced with fresh intensity. But while city officials and advocates said infrastructure improvements are important, changes must start with an attitude shift away from a cars-only mentality.

"What we almost need is to hire a psychological facilitator, and we could all hold hands in the dark and sing 'Kumbaya,'" said Frank Peters, a member of the Newport Beach Citizens Bicycle Safety Committee. "Humans are so resistant to change."

Still, members of the cycling community said, changes may be necessary.

"Obviously, this place gets more and more urbanized every year," said Art Shapiro, a 13-year member of the Orange County Rebel Riders, a cycling club. "So it would be hard to assert things are getting safer."

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The most recent information from the California Office of Traffic Safety shows that in 2010, Newport Beach ranked among the worst cities in bicycle injuries and deaths when compared with cities its size across the state.

Newport Beach ranked third highest in the number of traffic accidents involving cyclists who were injured or killed when compared with 103 other similarly-sized cities. The city ranked third highest in accidents involving people 15 years old or younger.

As a whole, Orange County didn't fare much better. It ranked 14th highest, out of 58 total counties, in the number of cyclists killed or injured in crashes. The county ranked ninth among collisions involving people 15 or younger.

Statewide, cyclist fatalities dropped between 2006 and 2010 by nearly 30%, according to Chris Cochran, a spokesman for OTS.

But preliminary information indicates fatalities increased in 2011 and are on the rise in 2012, Cochran said.

Data from Newport Beach police show that most accidents involving cyclists happen in clear daylight conditions, often in summer months.

Hot-spot intersections, as identified by Newport Beach police, where the majority of vehicle-vs.-bicycle collisions occur are Newport Boulevard and Via Lido, Newport Boulevard and 32nd Street, and Riverside Avenue and Avon Street. All are within a mile of each other between Mariner's Mile and City Hall.

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Crashes involving 'dooring'

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