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California programs promote bike accident reduction, harmony

California provides a near-perfect environment for people who ride bicycles, whether it's for recreation or out of necessity. With a growing population of bicyclists in Los Angeles and throughout the state, it's never been more important for riders and drivers to come to terms over the rights of the road. Annoyance and animosity lead to bike accidents and often serious injuries.

A retired champion cyclist from Westlake Village wants bicyclists and drivers to reach an understanding and learn to respect one another. The 35-year-old, seven-time winner of the U.S. Time Trials founded Yield to Life in 2007. The nonprofit organization is devoted to education about road rules and courtesy.

The father of two retired from a 14-year professional cycling career last year. He's no stranger to bike accidents. The former pro was struck by cars four times and nearly had to give up cycling after a 2003 SUV collision. He realized drivers tend to depersonalize bicyclists and don't recognize how vulnerable cyclists are.

The former competitor's organization works with several groups and agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, to educate road users. Yield to Life works both sides of the equation – drivers and bicyclists – with tips for each to coexist peacefully and safely. Adversarial relationships on Los Angeles roads don't work for anyone, least of all unprotected bicyclists.

CHP offers its own bicycle education programs, including the latest public awareness campaign about a new three-foot passing law set to take effect in September. California drivers will have to provide three feet of clearance while passing a bicycle. Under the current law, drivers are instructed to pass bicycles in a safe manner, but the definition of "safe" is left to driver discretion.

Bikers and drivers share road rules and have some that are specific to the vehicles they operate. Either party can be negligent in an accident, although bicyclists usually pay the higher personal price.

Source: Thousand Oaks Acorn, "Life-and-death pursuit Sylvie Belmond" Sylvie Belmond, Jul. 10, 201 

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