Bike Crash (photo by Brandon Wise)

CITYWIDE — Santa Monica may see itself as more cyclist friendly than surrounding cities. But when it comes to the number of bike accidents, it ranks among the worst in the state.

Out of 103 cities of similar size in California, Santa Monica had the third most collisions involving cyclists in 2008, according to the state’s Office of Traffic Safety.

It also had the worst track record in pedestrian involved collisions, with a greater number of serious accidents reported than any of the 102 other comparable cities.

There were 110 serious bike accidents reported in 2008, and 105 accidents involving pedestrians.

The rankings, which were based on the most recent statistics available, compared Santa Monica, which has a population of 91,710, with California cities of between 50,000 and 100,000 people.

When adjusted to account for the average daily vehicle miles traveled in each city, Santa Monica did scarcely better, ranking worst in pedestrian collisions and fifth-worst in bicycle-involved accidents.

Local bike advocates reacted to the figures with a mixture of surprise and dismay.

“That Santa Monica should rank so highly in accidents is so disappointing,” said Richard McKinnon, a Parks and Recreation Commission member. “They’re just horrifying numbers.”

While noting tourists and employees significantly boost Santa Monica’s daytime population and likely “inflate” the per capita number of collisions, Phil Brock, vice chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, said the report nevertheless “shows the inadequacy of our preparation for the amount of bicycle traffic that we have.”

“We have to do more to make our streets safe for bicyclists,” he said.

Santa Monica Police Sgt. Jay Trisler attributed the city’s comparatively high number of bike and pedestrian accidents in large part to the Santa Monica’s high daytime population, which he estimated at 250,000.

The SMPD, he said, is trying to make the streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians by enforcing traffic safety laws — and not just against unsafe drivers.

“We’re out there issuing citations in all facets — to drivers, pedestrians and bicycle riders,” he said.

Meanwhile, on top of Santa Monica’s poor traffic accident rankings, there’s also evidence more bike accidents than ever before are occurring.

City Hall’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment this month reported bike accidents involving vehicles were up 78 percent from 2007, proof of “the need for additional educational and bike safety investments.”

“Bike use in Santa Monica is up — this should be obvious to even the casual observer — so it is regrettable, but to be expected that collisions will be on the increase,” said City Councilman Richard Bloom, who in May supported setting aside $25,000 for bicycle education programs in this year’s budget. The amount has yet to be allocated.

Bloom said cutting down on the number of bicycle and pedestrian accidents will require more attention to bike safety education as well as better transportation planning that focuses on separating and protecting bicyclists from motorists. City Hall’s installation of the city’s first “sharrows” — markings on the asphalt that designate a street for use by both cyclists and cars — this year was a step in that direction, he said.

City Hall is also preparing to produce an updated bike master plan that is likely to urge the construction of additional bike lanes and sharrows citywide.

McKinnon said the hope is to complete a draft version of the document by November.

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