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26 Oct 2015

Another Day, Another Injured Bicyclist: We All Need to Do Our Part to Ensure Safe Streets

Written by  Brett Klein and Vic Yepello

Editor’s Note: On Oct. 6, bicyclist Trisha Monroe was hit by a vehicle in Palm Desert. She suffered serious injuries.

Monroe was just the latest Coachella Valley resident to get badly hurt on our valley’s roadways while riding a bike. Therefore, the Independent asked Brett Klein and Vic Yepello to write a piece on bicycle-traffic safety.

By the way, friends of Monroe have launched a GoFundMe effort. Find that here.


The Coachella Valley has long been a place for cars—but we are collectively working to make our infrastructure safer for people on bikes. Making our cities function for pedestrians will also take a significant effort.

We want the ability to bike or walk from homes or hotels to shopping, parks, convention centers and meeting spaces, casinos and our neighborhoods.

For people on bikes, safety matters, and all of us need to learn, listen and be educated. In the last 10 months alone, there have been seven collisions between people on bikes and vehicles. Four have resulted in fatalities, with three resulting in major injuries. This brings the number of cyclists who have lost their lives riding on our valley streets since 2010 to 16.

As the city of Palm Springs and other valley cities continue to improve our roadway infrastructure to become more of an active transportation community (biking and walking), we all need to learn and follow the rules of the road, pay more attention while commuting and—above all else—look out for one another. We want everyone to know the basics for a bikeable Coachella Valley in order for each of us to take personal responsibility for our actions.

In 2015, California enacted the 3-foot law. What it means is that a motorist must give a cyclist at least 3 feet of space when passing, or when 3 feet is not available, slow down to 15 mph or less and proceed safely.

The law is good—but it’s not well-known yet. The Department of Motor Vehicles needs to promote it in all literature and driving tests. Media outlets can help by including PSA ads showing the 3-foot-law logo. SunLine and local police departments can include the 3-foot-law logos on vehicles.

To safely pass a cyclist: Slow down to a reasonable speed; move to the left if it is safe to do so, and proceed safely past the cyclist. Do not honk your horn.

Everyone needs to slow down and pay attention to their driving. Many people today drive too fast for conditions, and are often going faster then the posted speed limit. In their haste, they can make poor judgment calls and endanger cyclists by clipping or rear-ending them.

Cyclists also need to do their part to ride safely. Cyclists should always ride on the right side of the road, and in the same direction as traffic. They should stop for red traffic signals, yield to pedestrians, and always indicate their intentions to turn or stop. It is also required to stop at stop signs.

How can cyclists ride more safely? Many cyclists do a great job of following the rules of the road; however, others just do not get it. They ride on the wrong side of the road, going against traffic, and they improperly approach signal-controlled intersections and stop signs. It’s up to everyone to do better. Bike shops, bike-rental shops and hotels that lend out bikes can all help by alerting customers on how to be safer rider.

Use safer bike routes.Palm Springs Cyclery, the Palm Springs Visitors Center, the Welwood Murray Memorial Library, the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce and City Hall all offer the latest versions of our bike-routes map. We recommend that all but the most experienced cyclists stay off Vista Chino; much of Highway 111; and Ramon Road, because of the high volume of traffic and the fast speeds. It’s also good to avoid Gene Autry Trail. However, it is a Class 1 bikeway if a rider stays on the sidewalk as indicated.

Bike lanes explained: Palm Springs and other desert cities are currently installing new bike lanes. There are three types of bike lanes currently in use in Palm Springs: Class I bikeways (bike paths), Class II bikeways (bike lanes) and Class III bikeways (roads).

Class I bikeways are off-road bike paths that can be trails, specially configured sidewalks or other forms of protected bike lanes. In general, a cyclist is 100 percent separated from traffic.

Class II bike lanes are striped areas of an active roadway. They are clearly marked where a cyclist can ride via road stencils and signage.

Class III are secondary roads that are not wide enough for a Class II bike lane, and therefore are stenciled with “sharrows” that indicate a cyclist can take and share the lane with cars.

To understand more about cycling and safety, we suggest reading Effective Cycling by John Forester.

Brett Klein and Vic Yepello founded the CV Bicycle Coalition in 2013. The coalition is working to create, promote and improve conditions for people on bikes in the Coachella Valley, in partnership with bike clubs, citizens, businesses, community groups, government agencies, city commissions and elected officials. The goal is to create a community where people can meet their daily transportation needs on a bike.

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