CARLSBAD — In the wake of two fatal bicycle-vehicle collisions this month, the city has declared a local state of emergency effective Aug. 23 for bike, e-bike and traffic safety, citing a 233% increase in collisions involving bikes and e-bikes since 2019.
The state of emergency allows for immediate increased attention and resources on a range of solutions, including infrastructure, safety, enforcement and a focus on safe driving behavior education, according to a press release from the city.
City Manager Scott Chadwick has redeployed resources from the city’s police, fire, transportation and community education departments to develop actions to be presented to the City Council during its Aug. 30 meeting. The city will follow up with a comprehensive plan on Sept. 27.
Additionally, two high-profile deaths one week apart prompted residents to speak out regarding slowing traffic, bike safety and for the city to act. Christine Hawk Embree was killed on Aug. 7, and a male cyclist along Carlsbad Boulevard near Palomar Airport Road on Aug. 14.
“The exponential increase in ridership, especially among young people, has significantly changed how people use Carlsbad’s roads,” Chadwick said. “In addition to adding miles of new bike lanes, we’ve passed new laws, promoted awareness and ramped up enforcement. Despite these efforts, we continue to see collisions, including two tragic fatalities within the past 17 days.”
Emergency declarations allow cities to reallocate resources, expedite specific actions and temporarily bypass lengthy processes to address an existing or imminent threat. Carlsbad’s declaration cites the following statistics:
Collisions reported in Carlsbad involving bikes or e-bikes have increased significantly, nearly doubling each year since 2019. In 2019, the city reported 30 collisions. The following years, the city reported 60 collisions in 2020 and 100 in 2021. So far this year, there have been 57 cycle-involved collisions.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates, U.S. roadway deaths rose 10.5% in 2021 and an additional 7% during the first three months of 2022, the highest number for the first quarter in two decades.
The increase in deaths is due to speeding, impaired or distracted driving and other reckless behavior. E-bikes are faster and heavier than traditional bicycles, and e-bike injuries are more likely to be more severe and require hospitalization than standard bicycle injuries.
The official declaration covers the safety of bicycles, e-bikes and other motorized devices, including electric scooters and motorized skateboards.
“This is an issue that affects every single member of our community, and it will take all of us working together to make our streets safer,” Chadwick said.
The city saw increased bike and e-bike ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic. In December 2020, the City Council approved an overarching plan to add and expand sidewalks and bike lanes while slowing down cars on streets throughout Carlsbad.
The city’s traffic engineers have completed several projects and have more in the planning stages. In June 2022, the council directed staff to further expedite street projects in the current fiscal year’s budget.
However, with hundreds of miles of city roads, the plan will still take many years to complete.
In April 2022, the City Council approved Carlsbad-specific rules for e-bike riders, which provide Carlsbad police with more enforcement options. The new rules include a diversion program where minors have the option to complete an e-bike safety course after their first offense.