Hit-and-runs On the Rise for Cyclists

Bicycle accidentA dangerous trend is taking place in Los Angeles, California. From 2002 to 2012, hit-and-run collisions involving bicyclists rose 42 percent, according to a Times analysis of California Highway Patrol crash data.

In June of 2011, musician Paul Livingston found himself a victim of such an incident. While biking on Santa Monica Boulevard when a car hit him hard at a red light, throwing him from his bicycle. He remembers that as paramedics loaded him into an ambulance, a onlooker nearby shouted that the driver “just took off!” Livingston, then 35, spent the next three years rehabilitating himself and struggling to seek accountability from the driver who hit him and drove away.

The increase in cyclist hit-and-runs arrived a the overall number of hit-and-runs involving cars, cyclists, and pedestrians dropped by 30 percent. According to the most recent data available, between 2002 and 2012 over 5,600 cyclists were injured, and at least 36 died in crashes in which drivers fled the scene.

The increase in cyclist collisions reflects the trends of Los Angeles streets, where more and more citizens are choosing to commute by bike, according to federal data. In the last five years, Los Angeles has added more than 120 miles of bike lanes to promote safe biking and to encourage more people to leave their cars for the more green option.

Data show that almost one-fifth of the hit-and-run accidents involving bicycles occurred in five neighborhoods: Long Beach, Santa Monica, downtown Los Angeles, Van Nuys, and North Hollywood. It was also made apparent that young people are more likely to be involved in such accidents; in 40 percent of the cases, the victims were 18 or younger. The youngest was 1 and the oldest was 99.

Unfortunately, data shows that drivers who commit the hit-and-runs are not often caught. The Los Angeles Police Department closed one in five hit-and-runs from 2008 to 2012. This leaves about 80 percent of the cases unresolved. Less than half of those cases were closed through an arrest.”There are a lot of cases where we don’t have a lot to go on,” said Sgt. Daniel Dail, who works in the Sheriff’s Department’s traffic services detail.

Law enforcement agencies uphold that hit-and-run cases of any kind are some of the most difficult cases to solve. Cases generally have little to no evidence, and drivers rarely turn themselves in.State legislators have made a recent push to create harsher penalties to discourage drivers from leaving crash scenes, as the request of bike advocacy groups such as Finish the Ride.

Finish the Ride was created by another cyclist who lost his leg in a hit-and-run to help cyclists like Livingston, who suffered serious injury including internal bleeding, fracturing of eight vertebrae, and a completely broken pelvis. Today, he is healed entirely after several grueling years. “My life is getting back on track. I know it could be much worse,” Livingston said. “But nothing will ever be the same.”


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