Westlake close call raises questions about bike safety

NEAR MISS—Using a bike cam, cyclist Matt Singley caught the moment he was nearly sideswiped by a Mercedes heading north on Westlake Boulevard as it cut to the right trying to turn onto T.O. Boulevard.

NEAR MISS—Using a bike cam, cyclist Matt Singley caught the moment he was nearly sideswiped by a Mercedes heading north on Westlake Boulevard as it cut to the right trying to turn onto T.O. Boulevard.

On Aug. 21, North Ranch resident Matt Singley was riding his road bike on Westlake Boulevard near the intersection at Thousand Oaks Boulevard when a driver to his left made a dangerous lastsecond move, zipping across two lanes of traffic in an attempt to turn right.

The vehicle swerved in front of Singley, who was traveling 20 mph, forcing the cyclist to slam on his brakes to avoid a collision with the white Mercedes.

A bike-mounted camera captured the close call on video.

Singley, an advertising agency president who posted the video on Twitter, told The Acorn these near-misses are a common hazard for Conejo Valley cyclists who share the road with motorists, many of whom are unaware that bikes have the same right to use city roads as automobiles.

“I can’t imagine where that guy had to go that was that important,” he said. “No appointment is worth getting to at the cost of killing someone.”

The 46-year-old father of four mounted two cameras on his bike after a hit-and-run driver knocked him off his bicycle in 2014. He was knocked unconscious and found lying in the middle of Lindero Canyon Road.



After he recovered, his family made him install safety lights and cameras on the front and back ends of his bicycle.

Present danger

More than 100 bicyclists are killed and over 10,000 injured in collisions each year in California, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Bicycles are considered vehicles, and cyclists are required to follow the same rules as motorists, including obeying traffic signs and signal lights as well as yielding to pedestrians. Bicycles have a right to operate on the road, and drivers are required to allow at least 3 feet between their vehicle and a bicyclist.

Ventura County Fire Department Capt. Jack Nosco has been an avid cyclist for nearly four decades. He said the Conejo Valley and surrounding Santa Monica Mountains are extremely popular with riders due to a combination of favorable road conditions, weather and scenery.

“People come from all over the world to ride here,” he said.

During his career with the fire department, Nosco said, he’s responded to numerous calls where cycling friends were struck by motorists. And in August 2017, Nosco was on the receiving end of care when he was hit by a car while on his bike. He broke his shoulder and had to take four months off work to recover.

The 56-year-old said a number of factors create unsafe conditions on the road, including careless lane changes, turning in front of oncoming cyclists and excessive speed. But he said from his vantage point perched high in a fire engine, he constantly sees distracted motorists looking at their cellphones instead of the ever-changing traffic conditions ahead.

“It’s crazy and it’s only getting worse,” he said. “I see it every day.”

Westlake resident Tex Williams has been cycling for 20 years. During the last five years he’s spent in the Conejo Valley, he said, handheld devices have increasingly taken drivers’ attention away from the road.

“Texting is the main culprit,” he said.

Sheri Leiken is president of the Conejo Valley Cyclists. She said distracted and impatient drivers pose a threat to cyclists when they maneuver without regard for nonmotorized vehicles.

“It’s a minority of people but we’d like to make drivers aware,” she said. “Try to have patience. It’s three seconds and we’ll be out of your way.”

Cyclists also have a responsibility to follow the rules of the road as well, said Mike Berg, a deputy the Thousand Oaks Police Department’s traffic division. He said common violations by cyclists include not staying within a designated bike lane when there is one, not stopping at stop signs and making right turns at red lights without coming to a stop.

He said collisions between cars and cyclists are not uncommon in the Conejo Valley and in some instances, the cyclists are at fault.

“They do occur, especially here in Thousand Oaks where we have a lot of cyclists,” he said.

Berg said cyclists can get traffic tickets just like other vehicles and if deputies witness them breaking the rules of the road, officers have discretion over whether or not to issue a citation.

For Singley, sharing the road means remembering that in the cases of car vs. bicycle, the car always wins.

“The people on bikes are mothers, fathers, sisters and children. These are real people,” he said. “Let them enjoy the road.”


Rules of the road

According to the California DMV Driver Handbook, motorists must:

•Always look carefully for bicyclists before opening doors next to moving traffic or before turning. • Pass bicyclists allowing enough room to avoid forcing them into parked vehicles or doors that are open into traffic.

•Merge toward the curb or into the bike lane only when it is safe.

•Merge safely behind a bicyclist when preparing to make a turn.

•Enter a bike lane no more than 200 feet before starting a turn.

•Make a visual check for bicyclists when changing lanes or entering traffic. Bicycles are small and may be hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot.

• Be careful when approaching or passing a bicyclist on a two-lane roadway.