safety – 511 Contra Costa

New Laws for 2018


2018 is here, and with it some new laws for transit and vanpool commuter benefits, walking and driving.
Pre-Tax Commuter Benefit: If your employer offers a program where you can pay for transit or vanpool commuting expenses with pre-tax dollars, the monthly cap for that benefit has risen to $260 for 2018. The pre-tax cap for biking expenses remains at $20.
Pedestrian Crossing Signals (AB 390): For crosswalk signals which include a countdown timer, it is now legal for a pedestrian to enter the crosswalk after the countdown has started, as long as they can make it across by the time the counter reaches zero. It is still illegal to begin crossing at a traditional pedestrian signal (i.e. no countdown timer) after it has begun flashing.
Seat Belts on Buses (SB 20): Effective July 1, 2018 – In buses which are equipped with seatbelts, the law requires both the passengers and the driver to wear them. The driver is also responsible for informing passengers of this requirement.
Driving Passengers for Hire (AB 2687, 2016): Effective July 1, 2018 – Now lowered to match the current limit for bus and truck drivers, the blood-alcohol limit for individuals driving for Uber, Lyft and similar services has been lowered to 0.04 percent when carrying passengers.
New Fuel Taxes and Vehicle Fees(SB 1): A new ‘transportation improvement fee’ will be added to all vehicle registration fees – ranging from $25 to $175 based on the value of a car or truck.
No Parking Citations at Broken Meters (AB 1625): You cannot be restricted from or ticketed for parking at a broken meter. However, you must still observe the posted time limit for parking.
Alcohol and Marijuana in Vehicles (SB 65, 94): Smoking or ingesting cannabis while driving or riding in a vehicle is prohibited. The law also prohibits the possession of an open container of cannabis or cannabis product when operating a motor vehicle.
To see the full text of any California law above, visit the California Legislative Information website.

Walking School Bus

It’s back-to-school time! If you live within walking distance of your child’s school, you might consider forming a walking school bus.
A walking school bus can be as simple as two families taking turns walking their children to school. You can definitely go bigger, by including more parents and children, but it’s easiest to start with a small group of interested families.
For details on how to start your own walking school bus, read Street Smarts Diablo’s ‘how to’ guide.

Image courtesy Active & Safe Routes to School

New Motor Vehicle Laws for 2017

With 2017 just around the corner, we rounded up new laws impacting vehicle & traffic safety we thought you should know about. All of these laws take effect on January 1, 2017.
Cell Phone (Electronic Wireless Device) Usage: It will be illegal to hold a cell phone (or other wireless electronic device) while operating a motor vehicle. Phones and devices will need to be mounted on the dashboard or windshield, and may only be operated by hand when activating or deactivating a feature or function can be done with “a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger” (View full text of AB 1785)
School Bus Safety: All school buses, school pupil activity buses, youth buses & child care motor vehicles used to transport school-age children will be required to have a “child safety alert system”. Since this device requires the driver to contact or scan it before leaving the vehicle, it prompts them to verify that all children have disembarked. Schools will also be required to have procedures in place to, “ensure that a pupil is not left unattended on a school bus.” (View full text of SB 1072)
Child Safety Seats: Children under 2 years of age must ride rear-facing in a child safety seat, unless they are more than 40 pounds or taller than 40 inches. (View full text of AB 53)

Drive with Care: October is Walk to School Month (2016)

WBTS_LogoInternational Walk to School Day is October 5. This means that in October, cities across the US (and throughout the world) will hold Walk to School events to encourage students and their families to get to school on foot and experience the benefits and joys of walking in their community.
streetsmartsdiabloSchools in Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley, Concord, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek will be teaming up with Street Smarts Diablo for Walk to School events. Events in Antioch, Concord, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek will happen on October 5, while Brentwood and Oakley schools will celebrate on October 19.
With more students walking to and from school with this national event, motorists are reminded to drive with extra care, stay alert for children crossing the road, and be especially aware of school zone speed limits.
For a list of participating schools and event dates, visit the Street Smarts Diablo website.

Start Smart: Free Teen Driving Safety Program – Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 (Concord)

startsmartDid you know that your bicycle is considered a vehicle and that the same laws that apply to motorists apply to cyclists? Come learn more about keeping your teens safe on the road with a 2-hour Start Smart driving and bicycling safety class September 29 in Concord.  Accompanying your student to the class is a great way to show them just how much their safety means to you.
screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-4-36-35-pmStart Smart, led by the California Highway Patrol, is designed to educate teens and their parents on common high-risk behaviors of new motorists & how to prevent distracted driving. The event will not only help new drivers stay safe behind the wheel, it will also explain the Rules of the Road regarding cyclists and present strategies to help your teen keep vulnerable road users, like pedestrians and cyclists, safe as well.
street_smarts_diablo_sm-500x230The class is open to all high school students and will be held at Ygnacio Valley High School from 6:30-8:30pm on Thursday, September 29. Each student must be accompanied by at least one parent or guardian. The event is free, but registration is requested via the Eventbrite event page.
This evening is presented by Street Smarts Diablo,  the California Highway Patrol, and Ygnacio Valley High School. For additional information, click here.

Walnut Creek's Green Bike Lanes & Top US Bike Lanes (BTWD 2016)

Green bike lanes have landed in Walnut Creek just in time for Bike to Work Day! The bike lane on Olympic Blvd has been painted green on the segment between N. California and the I-680 on ramp.
Walnut Creek Olympic BlvdThe creation of green bike lanes has been on the rise in the Bay Area since San Francisco’s first green lanes on Fell Street in 2010. It’s an inexpensive way to remind motorists to stay alert for cyclists, especially when drivers have to enter the green-painted area to change lanes or make a turn.
Does the painting of bike lanes help? A report on Portland’s painted bike lanes concluded:

The percentage of motorists yielding increased to 92 percent, a 27 percent increase… The overwhelming majority [of cyclists] (76 percent) felt that the locations were safer since the installation.

Given the benefits of painted bike lanes, it’s no surprise that at least 7 of the projects that made People for Bikes‘ list of the Best New Bike Lanes feature green paint.
If you want to see what the future of bike lanes might look like (or just drool over some amazing bike infrastructure), check out People for Bikes’ America’s 10 Best New Bike Lanes of 2015.

Photos: Adam Foster, John Greenfield

Free Teen Driving Safety Program: Feb. 18, 2016 (Lafayette)

If you live in or near Lafayette, help your teen be a safer driver by bringing them to the CHP’s Start Smart program on February 18! This two-hour driver safety class at Acalanes High School is for new and future licensed teenage drivers and their parents. All are invited to attend!
startsmartPresented by the California Highway Patrol, and Acalanes High School, the event is free but registration is requested. Click here to register.
The class will be held at Acalanes High School (at 1200 Pleasant Hill Rd) in Lafayette from 7-9pm.

Free Teen Driving Safety Program: November 4, 2015 (Danville)

If you live in or near Danville, help your teen be a safer driver by bringing them to the CHP’s Start Smart program on November 4! This two-hour driver safety class at Monte Vista High School is for new and future licensed teenage drivers and their parents. All are invited to attend!
startsmartPresented by the California Highway Patrol, Street Smarts Diablo and Monte Vista High School. The event is free but registration is requested. Click here to register.
The class will be held at Monte Vista High School Theater (at 3131 Stone Valley Rd) in Danville from 7-9pm. For more information, call Street Smarts Diablo at 925-969-1083.

Senior Driving Skills – "Age Well Drive Smart" on Oct. 27, 2015 (Lafayette)

The California Highway Patrol knows that driving is freedom. Helping seniors preserve that freedom is the focus of their Age Well Drive Smart program.
CHP Age Well Drive SmartOn October 27, CHP – Contra Costa invites you to take their free Age Well Drive Smart class in Lafayette. This two-hour interactive program is designed to help Contra Costa County’s senior drivers refresh their knowledge of the “rules of the road” and learn about age-related physical changes and how to adjust to them.
Included in the discussion will be the importance of preserving the ability to drive, factors to consider in extending our driving years, and health issues which might require us to limit or stop driving. 
The event happens at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (1035 Carol Lane) in Lafayette on October 27, from 9:30am to 11:30am.
To register, visit the Eventbrite page.

Contra Costa Schools Celebrating 'Walk to School Day': October 7 & 21, 2015

WBTS_LogoWalk to School Day began in the US in 1997 as a one-day event aimed at building awareness for the need for walkable communities. Now the event is part of a year-round movement for Safe Routes to School, with an annual celebration each October.
streetsmartsdiabloThis year, 11 Contra Costa County schools in 5 cities are teaming up with Street Smarts Diablo to celebrate Walk to School Day! School events in Concord, Pittsburg and Walnut Creek will happen on October 7, while Brentwood and Oakley schools will celebrate on October 21.
Here are some great reasons to encourage students to walk to school:

Whether it’s Bike to School Day or any other day, please remind children to walk safely:

  • Use crosswalks
  • Stop, look & listen before crossing, and
  • Walk with a buddy!

 

walktoschoolimageOctober 7

Pittsburg: Highlands Elementary
Walnut Creek: Indian Valley Elementary
Concord: Cambridge ElementaryMeadow Homes ElementaryOak Grove Middle SchoolWestwood Elementary

October 21

Brentwood: Marsh Creek ElementaryPioneer Elementary
Oakley: Almond Grove ElementaryGehringer ElementaryLaurel Elementary
For more information, visit the Walk to School Day website.

Share Our Trail – 2015 Trail Safety Campaign


511CC is partnering with the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) for a trail safety awareness campaign called Share Our Trail. The campaign is designed to increase awareness of bicycle and pedestrian safety on the mixed-use paved trails. Staff from 511CC and EBRPD will target busy sections along the Iron Horse, Contra Costa Canal and Lafayette-Moraga Trails from June through mid-September 2015.
Staff will be on the Iron Horse Trail at Love Lane, in Danville, July 15 from 7-9:30 a.m. and Saturday, July 18th from 9:30 a.m. – noon.
Look for campaign posters in the display boxes on the Iron Horse and Contra Costa Canal Trails this summer. For more information, email info@511contracosta.org.

Rancho Medanos Junior High School: Bike & Roll to School – April 29, 2015

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Rancho Medanos Junior High School parents & students, it’s time to get ready to Bike and Roll to School!
As a lead-up to National Bike to School Day on May 6, Street Smarts Diablo is teaming up with Contra Costa middle schools for a series of individual Bike & Roll to School events. On April 29, Rancho Medanos Junior High School students will be accepting the challenge to get to school on wheels by riding their bikes, skateboards and scooters!
To celebrate the challenge, Street Smarts Diablo will have some free helmets on hand to provide to Rancho Medanos Junior High School students who arrive to school with wheels and need a properly fitting helmet. Parents are welcome to bring students’ bikes to school by car, so that any child starting the day without a helmet can get to school and roll home safely.
Motorists are reminded to drive with extra care and be especially aware of school zone speed limits and children walking and biking to and from school on Wednesday, April 29, particularly around the vicinity of Rancho Medanos Junior High School in Pittsburg (West Leland Rd, Range Road and surrounding streets).
For more information visit 511 Contra Costa’s Bike to School resource page or contact Street Smarts Diablo at 925-969-1083.

Walnut Creek Intermediate School: Bike & Roll to School – April 28, 2015

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WCI_HallWalnut Creek Intermediate School parents & students, it’s time to get ready to Bike and Roll to School!
As a lead-up to National Bike to School Day on May 6, Street Smarts Diablo is teaming up with Contra Costa middle schools for a series of individual Bike & Roll to School events. On April 28, Walnut Creek Intermediate School students will be accepting the challenge to get to school on wheels by riding their bikes, skateboards and scooters!
To celebrate the challenge, Street Smarts Diablo will have some free helmets on hand to provide to Walnut Creek Intermediate School students who arrive to school with wheels and need a properly fitting helmet. Parents are welcome to bring students’ bikes to school by car, so that any child starting the day without a helmet can get to school and roll home safely.
Motorists are reminded to drive with extra care and be especially aware of school zone speed limits and children walking and biking to and from school on Tuesday, April 28, particularly around the vicinity of Walnut Creek Intermediate School (Ygnacio Valley Rd, N Civic Dr, Walnut Blvd, Homestead Ave and surrounding streets).
For more information visit 511 Contra Costa’s Bike to School resource page or contact Street Smarts Diablo at 925-969-1083.

Senior Drivers: Ways to Improve Your Driving Safety

As we get older, physical changes occur which can impact our safety behind the wheel. The good news is there are steps we can take to remain safer drivers even as we age. Thanks to the Pleasant Hill Commission on Aging, here are some helpful suggestions for senior drivers. If you’re not a senior driver but have a parent or friend who is, consider sharing these suggestions with them:

1. VISION – 90% of the information you use while driving is visual. This makes it important to:
•Adjust mirrors properly before you start to drive.
•Check your rearview mirror every 10-20 seconds.
•Turn and look over your shoulder when changing lanes.
•Avoid night driving.
2. MEMORY and ATTENTION – Eliminating distractions that take your eyes or mind off the road is useful at any age. To improve your focus and reduce distractions:
•Put your sunglasses where you can easily reach them.
•Know where you are going before you start.
•Turn the radio off and keep conversations to a minimum.
•Drive on familiar roads to reduce stress.
hikingpoles3. STRENGTH & ENDURANCE – Regular exercise helps lower the incidence of memory loss and physical disability:
•Continue the exercise habit; take regular walks.
•Contact the Senior Center, YMCA, or Recreation & Park District about exercise options.
•Get plenty of sleep and rest.
•Ask your health care provider about any health concerns before starting your routine.
4. STAY INFORMED ON HEALTH CONDITIONS & MEDICATION CHANGES
•Ask your doctor or pharmacist about side-effects or negative drug interactions that may affect your driving.
•Be sure you know how you react to a medication before getting behind the wheel.
5. CHECK OUT YOUR CAR – The safer your vehicle, the safer you are on the road. Plus, not having to worry about the reliability of your car reduces your stress while driving:
•Maintain the correct fluid levels and air pressure in the tires.
•Promptly repair any damage that could influence driving safety (e.g. cracked windshield, broken mirror, burned out light).
•Participate in a CarFit event (the next one is May 2 in Pleasant Hill).
 
Images courtesy National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Institutes of Health

Antioch Middle School: Bike & Roll to School – April 23, 2015

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Antioch Middle School parents & students, it’s time to get ready to Bike and Roll to School!
As a lead-up to National Bike to School Day on May 6, Street Smarts Diablo is teaming up with Contra Costa middle schools for a series of individual Bike & Roll to School events. On April 23, Antioch Middle School students will be accepting the challenge to get to school on wheels by riding their bikes, skateboards and scooters!
To celebrate the challenge, Street Smarts Diablo will have some free helmets on hand to provide to Antioch Middle School students who arrive to school with wheels and need a properly fitting helmet. Parents are welcome to bring students’ bikes to school by car, so that any child starting the day without a helmet can get to school and roll home safely.
Motorists are reminded to drive with extra care and be especially aware of school zone speed limits and children walking and biking to and from school on Thursday, April 23, particularly around the vicinity of Antioch Middle School in Antioch (10th St, L St, 18th St, D St, G St and surrounding streets).
For more information visit 511 Contra Costa’s Bike to School resource page or contact Street Smarts Diablo at 925-969-1083.

Pine Hollow Middle School: Bike & Roll to School – April 2, 2015

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Pine Hollow Middle School parents & students, it’s time to get ready to Bike and Roll to School!
As a lead-up to National Bike to School Day on May 6, Street Smarts Diablo is teaming up with Contra Costa middle schools for a series of individual Bike & Roll to School events. On April 2, Pine Hollow Middle School students will be accepting the challenge to get to school on wheels by riding their bikes, skateboards and scooters!
To celebrate the challenge, Street Smarts Diablo will have some free helmets on hand to provide to Pine Hollow Middle School students who arrive to school with wheels and need a properly fitting helmet. Parents are welcome to bring students’ bikes to school by car, so that any child starting the day without a helmet can get to school and roll home safely.
Motorists are reminded to drive with extra care and be especially aware of school zone speed limits and children walking and biking to and from school on Thursday, April 2, particularly around the vicinity of Pine Hollow Middle School in Concord (Pine Hollow Rd, Kaiser Quarry Rd, Mitchell Canyon Rd, El Camino Dr and surrounding streets).
For more information visit 511 Contra Costa’s Bike to School resource page or contact Street Smarts Diablo at 925-969-1083.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Junior High: Bike & Roll to School – April 15, 2015

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Junior High parents & students, it’s time to get ready to Bike and Roll to School!
As a lead-up to National Bike to School Day on May 6, Street Smarts Diablo is teaming up with Contra Costa middle schools for a series of individual Bike & Roll to School events. On April 15, Martin Luther King, Jr. Junior High students will be accepting the challenge to get to school on wheels by riding their bikes, skateboards and scooters!
To celebrate the challenge, Street Smarts Diablo will have some free helmets on hand to provide to Martin Luther King, Jr. Junior High students who arrive to school with wheels and need a properly fitting helmet. Parents are welcome to bring students’ bikes to school by car, so that any child starting the day without a helmet can get to school and roll home safely.
Motorists are reminded to drive with extra care and be especially aware of school zone speed limits and children walking and biking to and from school on Wednesday, April 15, particularly around the vicinity of Martin Luther King, Jr. Junior High in Pittsburg (California Ave, Loveridge Rd, Harbor St, E 14th St and surrounding streets).
For more information visit 511 Contra Costa’s Bike to School resource page or contact Street Smarts Diablo at 925-969-1083.

Foothill Middle School: Bike & Roll to School – March 31, 2015

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Foothill Middle School parents & students, it’s time to get ready to Bike and Roll to School!
As a lead-up to National Bike to School Day on May 6, Street Smarts Diablo is teaming up with Contra Costa middle schools for a series of individual Bike & Roll to School events. On March 31, Foothill Middle School students will be accepting the challenge to get to school on wheels by riding their bikes, skateboards and scooters!
To celebrate the challenge, Street Smarts Diablo will have some free helmets on hand to provide to Foothill Middle School students who arrive to school with wheels and need a properly fitting helmet. Parents are welcome to bring students’ bikes to school by car, so that any child starting the day without a helmet can get to school and roll home safely.
Motorists are reminded to drive with extra care and be especially aware of school zone speed limits and children walking and biking to and from school on Tuesday, March 31, particularly around the vicinity of Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek (Ygnacio Valley Rd, Oak Grove Rd, Cedro Ln and surrounding streets).
For more information visit 511 Contra Costa’s Bike to School resource page or contact Street Smarts Diablo at 925-969-1083.

Street Smarts Diablo Bike & Roll to School Events: March 31 – May 6, 2015

National Bike to School Day is Wednesday, May 6. As a lead-up to the big day, Street Smarts Diablo is teaming up with select middle schools in Contra Costa for a series of individual Bike & Roll to School events. Middle school students will be accepting the challenge to get to school on wheels by riding their bikes, skateboards and scooters!
Drivers are advised to exercise extreme caution from late March through early May as bicycling and walking events will mean an increase in school-aged children walking & bicycling to and from school.
NBM2014_Web_Site_Header_editNational Bike to School Day is a one-day event occurring in May that encourages and celebrates biking to school. Bike to School Day events can include bicycle safety education, parent-led bike trains, and other bicycle-related education and encouragement activities. Street Smarts Diablo’s Bike & Roll events build off of the energy of National Bike Month, encouraging student health and fitness, biking safety, and concern for the environment while decreasing traffic congestion around campus.
As part of the Bike & Roll to School celebrations, Street Smarts Diablo will have some free helmets on hand to provide to students who arrive to school with wheels and need a properly fitting helmet. Parents are welcome to bring students’ bikes to school by car, so that any child starting the day without a helmet can get to school and roll home safely.
If your child is planning on biking school, these two guides from the National Center for Safe Routes to School will help get both of you ready:

Schools participating in the 2015 Bike & Roll Challenge – click any event for more information:
streetsmartsdiabloFoothill Middle School, Walnut Creek – Tuesday, March 31
Pine Hollow Middle School, Concord – Thursday, April 2
Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High, Pittsburg – Wednesday, April 15
Antioch Middle School, Antioch – Thursday, April 23

Walnut Creek Intermediate School, Walnut Creek – Tuesday, April 28
Rancho Medanos Jr. High, Pittsburg – Wed., Apr. 29

For more information on Bike & Roll to School events, contact Street Smarts Diablo at 925-969-1083.

CarFit Event for Pleasant Hill Seniors – Saturday, May 2, 2015

Older drivers are often the safest drivers, since they are more likely to wear their seatbelts and less likely to speed or drink and drive. However, older drivers are more likely to be killed or seriously hurt when a crash does occur due to their greater susceptibility to injury.
CarFit
CarFit is an educational program offering older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles “fit” them. A trained team, including occupational therapy practitioners, will assist older drivers in assuring they leave with:
 • A clear line of sight over the steering wheel 
 • Adequate space between the front airbag/steering wheel and the driver’s breastbone
 • Properly adjusted head restraints and proper positioning on the gas & brake pedals 
 • Proper seat belt fit and instruction on proper use
 • Safe positioning of mirrors to minimize blind spots
 

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.49.27 PMThe Pleasant Hill Commission on Aging will host a CarFit event for Pleasant Hill Seniors on Saturday, May 2, from 10am-1:00pm, consisting of a series of personal appointments. The 20-minute appointment not only provides an opportunity to open a positive conversation about driver-to-vehicle fit, but it also provides specific community resources to help older drivers stay healthy and continue to drive for as long as safely possible.

To register for an appointment, please call Danielle Habr from the City of Pleasant Hill at (925) 671-5221 by April 29. Appointments will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information about this program, please visit car-fit.org.

Pleasant Hill CarFit Event
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
555 Boyd Road
Saturday, May 2, 10am-1pm

Thawing Icy Road Conditions

People for Bikes is currently rolling out a national ad campaign called ‘Travel With Care‘. According to their site, “The campaign’s message is built around bettering behavior by both people in cars and on bikes by asking them to travel with care and to ‘melt icy relations on the road.'”

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This isn’t the first ad campaign designed to encourage drivers and cyclists to see each other as partners in safety. To get a broader perspective, we took a look at similar road safety campaigns and collected some of their best thoughts.
On the topic of sharing responsibility for creating a safe environment, Massachusetts’ ‘Same Roads, Same Rules’ campaign puts it well:Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 4.44.17 PM

  • It’s about people just trying to get where they’re going safely.
  • It’s about respecting each others right to be on the road.
  • It’s about keeping each other safe by following a common set of rules that we all know.

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 4.47.21 PMThe UK’s ‘Let’s Look Out for Each Other’ campaign‘ adds to that:

  • Look out for each other, especially when turning
  • Signal intentions so that the other road user can react
  • Give cyclists space and remember that cyclists are advised to ride well clear of the [curb] to be visible and avoid collisions

The commonality among the campaigns is the notion that the divide between ‘cyclists’ and ‘motorists’ is an imaginary one. All road users are people just trying to get from one place to another. We’ve got the same errands to run, same places to go and the same daily worries – the only difference is in our choice of transportation on a given day. Since the vast majority of people who ride bicycles also regularly drive a motor vehicle, today’s cyclist could literally be tomorrow’s motorist!
However, recognizing the humanity of a fellow road user is only half the battle. How do you preserve the sense that we’re all in this together while battling with traffic? To answer that, we turn to London’s ‘Share the Road’ campaign:

“We all compete for space and as our population grows, the roads get busier and there’s less space to be had. All road users – motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists – are affected by the issues we face today: the pace of traffic and the pace of life. Sometimes it gets to us all and we lose our cool. But what if we let it go? And leave it behind? [We’re] asking all road users to think about their attitudes on the road. If we were all a bit more considerate, rather than competing and losing our temper, then we’d all have better, safer and less stressful journeys.”

Acknowledging our tendency to get frustrated on the road and dealing with it by choosing to act calmly instead of reacting hastily is a giant step toward making the road a safer place.  And don’t forget about the human element – giving a smile or a wave (even a ‘sorry, my bad’ wave) makes the road a better place for everyone.
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Daylight Savings Time Ends November 6: Be safe in the dark

Daylight Savings Time ends for most of the United States at 1 AM on Sunday November 6.
As we fall back the sun will set earlier in the evening. By by the end of November, the sun will set as early as 4:51 PM.  This means a lot of people will be commuting home in the dark. Though fewer miles are driven at night relative to the day, more than half of all traffic deaths occur after dark.
Tips for Bicyclists:
 

  • Use both front and rear bicycle lights. Bicycle lights are required by law, and are a very good idea.
  • Be predictable. Don’t make sudden turns without signaling properly. Come to complete stops when required.
  • Pedestrians, obey traffic laws, and don’t assume a driver will always see you. Make eye contact before crossing the street.
  • Be visible. Do what you can to make yourself and your children more visible using  reflective jackets and brightly colored coloring if you’ll be riding after 4:30 PM.
  • Parents, suggest bright colors or reflective materials for children when coming home from school.

Be careful out there, and enjoy the extra hour of sleep.

Pedestrians: Rights and Responsibilities

This morning, standing in a crosswalk, I stood 15 feet from a tractor trailer as it barreled through a red light.
This afternoon, I found this article about plain-clothed cops busting drivers that fail to yield to pedestrians.
These got me thinking: what are a pedestrian’s rights and responsibilities? What are the actual rules (not just what I wanted to shout at the truck driver)? Let’s take a gander at the definitive source for California’s rules of the road, the California Vehicle Code.

California Vehicle Code

Chapter 5. Pedestrians’ Rights and Duties

California’s vehicle code requires that “safe and convenient pedestrian travel and access, whether by foot, wheelchair, walker, or stroller, be provided to the residents of the state”. As they teach you in pedestrian-advocate school, what’s great for a wheelchair also makes life better for an able-bodies pedestrian.
The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
What’s an unmarked crosswalk you ask? Let’s say you’re walking down the sidewalk, and the street comes to an intersection. The ten-foot wide piece of road that extends from the sidewalk you’re standing on across the road and to the other side is a legal crosswalk. If the crosswalk is painted, it’s a “marked crosswalk.” If there’s a traffic signal or stop sign, it’s a “controlled intersection.” But whatever the paint or signage, it’s a legal crosswalk, and vehicles are required to yield to pedestrians.
A study by the Berkeley Traffic Safety Center found that 35 percent of drivers surveyed did not believe pedestrians have the right-of-way at marked crosswalks. Just because the law if on your side, look both ways.
(Photo from Atlanta-based Peds.Org)
But if you’re crossing away from a legal crosswalk, yield to drivers, because that’s where they have the right-of-way. Unless there’s street construction or the crosswalk is out of service, in which case pedestrians should walk along the roadway to the left-side, and be careful.
Whenever any vehicle has stopped at a crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.
If you see a car stopped for a pedestrian in a sidewalk, you’re legally obligated to also stop. The pedestrian is less likely to see a second car coming behind a stopped car.
A totally or partially blind pedestrian carrying a predominantly white cane (with or without a red tip), or using a guide dog, the pedestrian has the right-of-way. There are steep fines for using white canes in this way if you aren’t actually blind.
Also, no person may stop a vehicle unnecessarily in a manner that causes the vehicle to block a marked or unmarked crosswalk or sidewalk. Don’t block the sidewalk, either – leave enough room for a person in a wheelchair to comfortably pass.

Be safe out there!

Don't become a bicycling statistic

For all Contra Costa County’s progress to make bicycling friendlier, safer, and more fun, the Bay Citizen reminds us that a lot of work is left to be done.

From 2005 through 2009, 23 cyclists died in Contra Costa County… The Tracker reveals that some suburban areas like Contra Costa County are actually more dangerous for cyclists than crowded urban areas like San Francisco.

Meanwhile, in addition to the known health risks of driven commutes, new research suggests the stress of driving long distances every day can lead to stress and even divorce.
How can you keep your healthy, active commute without becoming a dour or deadly statistic? We could all stand to review the rules of the road. From the California Department of Motor Vehicles:

1. Maintain Control of Your Bicycle

There are many things you can do to control your bicycle, even in an emergency. First, ensure your bicycle is the right size and properly adjusted to fit you. A properly fitted bicycle is easier to control, more comfortable, and causes less fatigue. A bicycle shop can help you choose the correct size bicycle. Ensure your bicycle is in good working order by inspecting it regularly.

2. Protect Yourself

Even a simple fall can cause a life threatening head injury. The brain is fragile and often does not heal the way that broken bones can. The damage can stay with you for life. Helmets provide protection. By law, bicycle riders under 18 years of age must wear a bicycle helmet while riding on a public road. Wear your helmet correctly!

3. Be Visible and Alert

Even if you obey all traffic laws, there is always a risk of being hit by a motorist who is not obeying the laws, or who simply does not see you. Ride carefully—Vehicles waiting at stop signs, in driveways, or parking spaces may suddenly pull out in front of you. Watch for vehicles that have just passed you and may turn right, as well as vehicles across the street that may turn left in front of you. Be prepared to stop or take evasive action. Signal before making turns or changing lanes to warn traffic around you. To signal a left turn, look behind you, over your left shoulder, and then extend your left arm out. To signal a right turn, hold your left arm up with your elbow bent (you may also hold your right arm straight and point to the right). You do not have to keep your arm extended while completing the maneuver—Always have at least one hand on the handlebars to maintain control. To signal that you are slowing or stopping, extend your left arm down.
Using lights and reflectors at night is the law. Increase your visibility by wearing light or bright colored clothes, such as yellow or lime green. Red appears black in fading light and is not a good choice for riding in the evening. Mirrors provide opportunities for increased awareness of your surroundings, but use mirrors only as an aid. Always look over your shoulder to make sure the lane is clear before turning or changing lanes. Make sure your brakes are in good working order.

4. Ride With Traffic

Ride in the same direction as the traffic. This will make you more visible to drivers entering roads or changing lanes because they will know where to look for possible conflicts. On a one-way street, you may ride on the left as long as you are riding with traffic.

How Far to the Right?: Ride on the right, but not so far that you might hit the curb. You could lose your balance and fall into traffic. Do not ride too far to the right:

  • When avoiding parked vehicles or road hazards.
  • When a traffic lane is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side.
  • When making a left turn so that vehicles going straight do not collide into you.
  • To avoid conflicts with right-turning vehicles.

When to Take the Traffic Lane: If there is no shoulder or bicycle lane and the traffic lane is narrow, ride closer to the center of the lane. This will prevent motorists from passing you when there is not enough room. You should also use the traffic lane when you are traveling at the same speed as the traffic around you. This will keep you out of motorists’ blind spots and reduce conflicts with right-turning traffic.
Obey Traffic Signs and Signals: Bicyclists must obey STOP signs and red signal lights. It’s a good idea to stop for yellow lights too—rushing through a yellow light may not leave you enough time to make it across the intersection before the light changes.
Left Turns: There are two proper methods for making a left turn on a bicycle:

  1. Using Traffic Lanes: As you approach the intersection, look over your left shoulder for traffic. If clear, signal your turn and move over to the left side of the lane, or into the left or center turn lane. Position yourself so that vehicles going straight cannot pass you on your left while you are making your left hand turn. Yield to oncoming traffic before turning. If you are riding in a bicycle lane, or on a multi-lane road, you need to look and signal each time you change lanes. Never make a left turn from the right side of the road, even if you’re in a bicycle lane.
  2. Using Crosswalks: Approach the intersection staying on the right. Stop and either cross as a pedestrian in the crosswalk, or make a 90 degree left turn and proceed as if you were coming from the right. If there is a signal light, wait for the green or WALK signal before crossing. Yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

One more from 511CC: Pick your route carefully.

Not all roads were created equal. Busy, direct streets tend to have more traffic, and everyone must fight for space. Quieter neighborhood streets don’t have as much traffic, but a driver may not expect to see you on your bike. Wide streets encourage faster driving, but narrow streets make it more difficult to share lanes.
Carefully pick your route to ensure you’re biking on streets where you feel safe. 511CC’s Bike Mapper can help you pick a route with the right steepness and official infrastructure (such as signs, painted bike arrows or bike lanes).
What makes you feel safest on your bike?