26 August 2016

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #19247: Yesterday's Motorcycle Accident

Traffic has been noticeably heavier on Carbon Canyon Road this week because of the return to school as well as growing numbers of drivers looking to avoid the 91 and 57 freeways entering Orange County.  As noted here before, there has been an appreciable change in volume on the state highway the last three years.

One of the consequences is that more motorcycles are lane splitting, a practice that has generated controversy.  On one hand, it doesn't make sense to expect cycles to stay behind larger vehicles on congested roads, which would only add to the growing problem on that score.  On the other, there are safety risks for everyone involving lane changes, speed factors and others.

Evidently, the state has decided to legalize lane splitting, become the first to do so in the country, according to this recent online report.  Let's be clear, though, that there are many, many motorcyclists who are responsible and who drive safely and carefully and there are many who don't--just as with drivers of other vehicles.  An issue, of course, is visibility and high likelihood of serious injury or death to cyclists who just aren't that well protected.

Carbon Canyon Road, obviously, is a two-lane state highway, so lane splitting is not possible.  But, what motorcyclists are increasingly doing is passing slower or stopped vehicles by either going into the opposing lane or riding within the lane on either the left or right.  Sometimes cyclists racing through the canyon pass cars going the speed limit or higher--something I've often experienced in twelve years living here.

This is a significant safety issue, especially when it comes to other vehicles making turns.  This appears to have been demonstrated yesterday morning, when a motorcycle and a car collided at the intersection of Carbon Canyon and Fairway Drive, next to the Western Hills golf course.

I was among the many vehicles that lined up on Chino Hills Parkway from Eucalyptus Avenue (and there were many more on the other side coming from Peyton Drive) and then crawled west the couple of miles to the accident scene.

An accident between a motorcycle and a car at Carbon Canyon Road and Fairway Drive in Carbon Canyon slowed already-heavy traffic down considerably yesterday morning.  The cyclist appears to have been riding on the right shoulder to get around slowed vehicles when the car made a left turn and the collision resulted.
Again, this is speculation based on the condition at the scene of the accident, but the cycle and the car were off to the right where Fairway Drive meets Carbon Canyon.  The car was obviously turning onto Fairway from eastbound Carbon Canyon, probably because someone in the long line of cars heading towards Orange County stopped to allow the vehicle to turn left.

The motorcycle was clearly passing on the right shoulder and then could not see the car as it made the turn and the collision took place.  If the cyclist had been trying to pass on the left, presumably the rider would have seen the car in the left turn lane making that movement onto Fairway.  Instead, it looks as if the cyclist was unaware of the blind turn and rammed into the car.

This was an injury accident as there was an ambulance and fire department personnel heading back down eastbound on Carbon Canyon with light and sirens on.  It could easily have been avoided.

More than likely, we will see these occurring more frequently as volume on Carbon Canyon grows and cyclists are looking to make their way through as quickly as possible.  All the more reason to allow more housing in the canyon to join the crawling masses using the state highway (much less the greater use of water, destruction of dwindling native plant and animal habitate and so on.)

And, let's not forget the increasing challenge of trying to deal with an emergency, such as a wildfire, of which there are increasing numbers and intensity, that requires firefighting access and resident evacuation, when the road is becoming more heavily utilized at longer periods during the day.

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