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Public Safety

After declaring emergency over bike safety, Carlsbad approves $2 million for road safety

More and more people are turning to bikes as a mode of transportation- especially e-bikes, but this shift has also brought an increase in bicycle-involved collisions.

"Collisions involving e-bikes and bikes have increased 200% since 2019. And as you know, we experienced 2 tragic fatalities in August, ” said Carlsbad City Manager Scott Chadwick during a city council meeting on Aug. 30.

During that meeting, the council ratified a local emergency regarding bike safety that it had passed the week before in response to the spike in crashes. Council members also approved spending and $2 million from the city's general fund on road safety measures.

“Just over half of the $2 million dollars we’re requesting will go towards short-term actions to accelerate infrastructure projects like traffic calming, more restriping of city streets in connection with our street resurfacing project that is starting next week," Chadwick said.

He said the rest of the funds are already going to more traffic enforcement by Carlsbad's Police Department, especially around schools.

Since the emergency proclamation, Carlsbad police Chief Mickey Williams said the department has issued about four times as many warnings and citations as a typical week — 57% to drivers, 35% to e-bike riders, 8% to pedal bicyclists and one to a pedestrian.

There will also be message boards and new training and education programs throughout the city.

“That is the approach that every city in America has taken whenever there is a string of traffic fatalities over the last 50 years, and that has never been effective," said William Rhatigan, advocacy director with the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition.

He said Carlsbad’s initiative isn't the best approach to improve traffic safety for cyclists.

"It may be effective for a short period while there's extreme intensive enforcement," Rhatigan said, "but it certainly isn't a durable strategy, it never lasts.”

He said the coalition is happy to see investments into safer road infrastructure in Carlsbad, but he hopes the enforcement approach doesn't target cyclists in particular.

“When we’re thinking about where enforcement efforts should go, it should be almost entirely on the drivers because those are the road users causing the vast majority of harm," Rhatigan said.

He said Carlsbad has more work to do when it comes to slowing vehicles down and creating physical separations between cyclists and drivers on the roads.

“We can put safety improvements in, we know what they are, that is worth making motorists slow down, having their commute be a minute or two longer. Having the government spend what is a minuscule amount of money, in comparison to how much it spends on highways," Rhatigan said.

An update on additional traffic safety actions will be presented to the city council on Sept. 27.

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