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Topics > Child Safety > Bike and Pedestrian Safety

Bike and Pedestrian Safety

Nature of the Problem

Bicycle Injuries Crashes with motor vehicles are the leading cause of death and severe injury among young bicyclists in Contra Costa County. Between 1990-1999, five bicyclists ages 0-18 were killed and 1,602 were injured as a result of motor vehicle crashes in Contra Costa. Five cities accounted for more than half of the car crashes that led to death and injury to young bicyclists:

Most of the injuries (58%) were to youth ages 10-14 years old. Among children under 14 years old, more than 80% of bicycle-related deaths are associated with the bicyclists' behavior including riding into a street without stopping, turning left or swerving into traffic that is coming from behind, running a stop sign and riding against the flow of traffic.

Although most of the deaths and severe injuries among young bicyclists involve motor vehicles, 87 children ages 0-14 were hospitalized in Contra Costa between 1991-1997 due to bicycle injuries from non-motor vehicle related causes.

Pedestrian Injuries. Motor vehicles are the leading cause of death and injury to young pedestrians in Contra Costa County. From 1990-1999, 16 pedestrians ages 0-18 were killed and 1,237 were injured in the county as a result of being hit by motor vehicles. Four cities accounted for most of the car crashes that involved young pedestrians in Contra Costa:

Children are at great risk for pedestrian death because they often face traffic threats that exceed their mental and physical abilities. Parents also tend to misjudge their child's pedestrian skills. Children can be reckless, and have a hard time judging speed and distance. Sharp hearing, vision and depth perception develop gradually and do not fully mature until at least age 10.

Children are at greater risk for pedestrian injury in residential areas where streets have more traffic, more parked vehicles, higher posted speed limits or fewer pedestrian control devices and alternative play areas.

(Not all motor vehicle/bicycle and motor vehicle/pedestrian injuries are reported to police. Unreported bicycle/pedestrian injuries are not included here.)


The total annual cost of traffic-related bicyclist death and injury among children ages 14 and under is more than $3.4 billion in the United States.


In the event of a crash, wearing a bicycle helmet reduces the risk of serious head injury by as much as 85% and the risk for brain injury by as much as 88%. Every dollar spent on a bike helmet saves society $30 in direct medical and other costs. (A federal law requires all helmet manufacturers to meet tough Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards that ensure helmets will adequately protect the head, and straps will be strong enough to prevent helmets from coming off in a crash or fall. All helmets made after March 1999 must carry the CPSC certification sticker.)

Some studies show that only 25% of children ages 5-14 years old wear a helmet when riding. California law says that all children under the age of 18 wear helmets at all times when riding their bicycles. Law enforcement officers in California are being encouraged to cite young bicyclists riding without helmets and divert violators to bicycle safety classes, which are like traffic school for bicyclists.

The California vehicle code defines a bicycle as a vehicle--therefore all cyclists must follow the same rules of the road that apply to cars. Bicycle safety events such as bicycle rodeos can teach young bicyclists how to ride safely and defensively.

Likewise, studies have shown that practical, hands-on, skills-based pedestrian education for children can improve their pedestrian safety skills.

Prevention Tips for Providers/Caregivers

Always model good pedestrian and cycling behavior.

For cycling:

Always wear a bicycle helmet and make sure your young bicyclists wear theirs too. Bicycle helmets should be correctly fitted and positioned, sitting flat on top of the head.

> How to fit a helmet

Also visit on how to wear bicycle helmets.

Bicycle helmets should meet safety standards developed by the CSPC (look for the sticker).

  • Ride on the right side of the road with traffic.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Obey traffic signals.
  • Stop at all stop signs and lights.
  • Stop and look left-right-left before entering a street.
For walking
  • Make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them. Don't assume drivers can see you.
  • Cross streets at a corner, following traffic signals and using crosswalks whenever possible.
  • Where there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the road facing traffic, and look left-right-left before crossing streets.
  • Prohibit play in unsafe areas such as streets, parking lots or unfenced yards.
  • Adults should walk with children until children develop better traffic and judgment skills, generally around the age of 10.


Prevention Tips For Professionals


Education and training help motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists understand and learn safe traffic behavior. Offer programs that teach traffic safety in schools, promote "share the road" practices among motorists or provide safe walking and bicycling activities.


Evidence suggests that legislative efforts to encourage and enforce safe traffic behavior are highly cost-effective. Posting visible speed limits and strictly enforcing traffic laws are effective in reducing traffic-related pedestrian death and injury.


Changes in the traffic environment can greatly reduce motor vehicle-related incidents. Environmental changes include traffic calming measures to slow traffic, safer walkways, less curbside parking, fewer and slower traffic in residential neighborhoods and more pedestrian crossings.

For more information, call 925-313-6837.

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