(Ed. Note: A question came up recently in the LA Bike blogosphere about what LADOT was doing to educate cyclists. How fortuitous that I was already working on a post that discusses the very same issue! Enjoy.)
LADOT’s primary vehicle (ha!) for Bicycle Education is a program called Safe Moves. The program works closely with LAUSD schools all over the city to educate young children about proper bicycle safety, bicycle maintenance, the rules of the road, and the defensive riding skills that can save their lives.
Safety is priority number one for a bicyclist, whether you are out for a leisurely weekend ride or you are commuting to work. According to the NHTSA, in 2007 – their most recent year for bicycle statistics – there were 698 bicyclist deaths and more than 44,000 bicyclist injuries in traffic accidents(which is probably an underestimate due to unreported injuries). More concerning for the LA bicyclist, 72% of bicycling accidents take place in urban areas. You can check out the full PDF for yourself right here.
Safety on the road can be achieved in a number of ways, the first being adequate infrastructure. Admittedly, we’ve got a long way to go. We’re finishing the LA Bike Plan, working on a sharrows study (which I hope to cover more in-depth soon), and getting bike lanes and paths built throughout the City. To complement infrastructure, we also need to hold drivers more accountable. The anti-harassment ordinance, aiming to protect bicyclists from aggressive drivers, is making its way through City Council. We eagerly await its passage and implementation. And, of course, it always helps to protect your most important asset by wearing a good helmet.
More than infrastructure or laws, however, the best way to keep bicyclists safe is to keep them educated. Educated bicyclists are our greatest ambassadors to the admittedly overwhelming car-culture of Los Angeles. The more educated riders on the road exercising their legal rights, the more drivers will have to concede our rightful place. Should we even have to prove that we belong there? No, we shouldn’t; but creating consensus between drivers and educated bicyclists will provide more safety than all the anti-harassment ordinances in the world.
The best bicycle education starts early, and LADOT is proud to partner with Safe Moves to bring that bicycle education to LAUSD schools. LADOT spends about $340,000 a year on Safe Moves seminars for more than 175,000 students a year(That’s less than $2 per student!). Despite all the budget problems going on at City Hall, Safe Moves is safe for the foreseeable future: The program is funded through a combination of Propositions A and C, Local Transportation Article 3, and the Mobile Source Air Pollution Trust Fund.
I had the pleasure of going out to a Safe Moves “rodeo” a couple weeks ago. They set up this sweet little interactive street-scape with scenarios to illustrate safe riding. Safe Moves describes their rodeo as:
bicycling through a miniature city called “Safe Moves City”. “Safe Moves City” consists of streets, sidewalks, intersections, crosswalks, traffic signals, traffic signs, residential areas, business districts, cars, trucks, buses and a railroad track with signals, crossing gate and train. “Safe Moves City” is designed to simulate the diverse traffic environments in Los Angeles and to create “problem solving” experiences for each grade level.
There were about 30 third graders who got to take part in the rodeo we visited. It was more play than learning to them, but the interactive setting really let the lesson sink in. At any given moment there were about 3 students running through Safe Moves City, which allowed each of them to get personal attention from the Safe Moves facilitators. The lessons learned were reinforced as students cheered on their classmates when they had their chance through Safe Moves City. It was really fun, it was really cute, and (most importantly) it was really effective.
The Safe Moves program will run their programming at any elementary or middle LAUSD school that will have them. If you want your school to host Safe Moves, you can get in contact with them through their website or you can make a request with your local principal or school administrator.
We’d also like to throw a shout-out to all other great organizations in LA that help to educate riders and keep them safe. Groups like the LACBC, C.I.C.L.E., Bicycle Kitchen, the Bike Oven, and all the others that do yeoman’s work in providing LA bicyclists with the information they need to stay safe. We wouldn’t be able to do it without them. You guys rock!