Orange County Bicycle Safety Alert: Recent Deadly Accidents Demand Vigilance and Action

Written on behalf of Aitken Aitken Cohn

Bicyclists deserve to feel safe on our roadways. Cycling is healthy outdoor fun at any age, a convenient way to commute, and good for the planet.

But a recent spate of devastating accidents—including the death of an 8-year-old boy riding his bike to school for the first time—have sparked a public outcry for better infrastructure and oversight.

Aitken * Aitken * Cohn’s Michael Penn is representing the family of Bradley Rofer of Coto de Caza in a wrongful death lawsuit against the county and additional defendants.

On September 1, 2022, Bradley wore proper safety gear, including a helmet, and rode his bike to Wagon Wheel Elementary School. At approximately 7:25 a.m., as he crossed through the Coto de Caza Drive crosswalk, Bradley was struck by a Ford F-150 pickup truck making a left turn from Oso Parkway. The child’s mother, Josette Rofer, came upon the gruesome accident in her vehicle just after it occurred. Bradley died at the hospital from his injuries.

The California Highway Patrol investigated the incident and found that although the collision happened just 20 minutes before the start of classes, the two crossing guards assigned to the crosswalk were absent.

After completing a traffic study, the county approved plans to remove stop signs at the three-way intersection and install traffic signals.

Although steps like these move us in the right direction, sadly, they come too late for many victims.

According to data from UC Berkeley’s California Active Transportation Safety Information Pages (CATSIP), California is the second most dangerous state in which to be a bicyclist, after Florida—and Orange County, the second most dangerous place within our state, behind Los Angeles County.

Between 2017 and 2021 (the most recent comprehensive data available), there were 3953 bike crashes in Orange County, 73 fatal. Although Orange County’s overall bike crash numbers are lower than in L.A., the death rate in bike accidents is higher in Orange County (over 2% compared to L.A.’s 1.2%).

On July 4 this year, a Huntington Beach man suffered critical injuries while riding his bike in Fountain Valley. Shortly before 10:30 p.m., a vehicle struck him in the bicycle lane and fled. The rider, Caysen Robinson, was rushed to a hospital where he received life-saving heart surgery, repair of a broken leg, and additional procedures in the following days.

Less than a month earlier, on a beautiful Sunday morning in Lake Forest, a woman taking a birthday bike ride with her daughter was killed when an out-of-control driver in a pickup truck jumped the curb, hit a light pole, then careened across the street and hit Sara Wheaton before colliding with another light pole. Her daughter reported that the victim was thrown 20 feet from her mangled bike by the impact.

On a Saturday night in April, a cyclist in Orange was struck by a driver while crossing Chapman. The rider, a resident of Orange, died at the scene.

In June of 2022, two cyclists in neighboring counties were killed in hit-and-run accidents within 24 hours. Forty-year-old Joshua Gene Cervantes, of Capistrano Beach, was riding an e-bike in San Clemente when he was struck by a driver who fled the scene and then abandoned his car nearby. The next night, a 41-year-old cyclist in Colton died of blunt force trauma where he was hit, despite treatment by the Colton Fire Department.

Southern California, in general, has seen a disturbing surge in bike accidents in recent years— particularly a wave of catastrophic accidents related to electric bicycles or e-bikes—which has prompted two mayors in nearby San Diego County to declare a state of emergency. Doctors at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo told CBS News that in one year, 2020-21, they saw a 500% increase in e-bike injuries, many severe, including broken bones, head trauma, and internal organ damage.

This June in Encinitas, in the space of just a few days, two teenage boys riding e-bikes were in collisions with cars. One of the boys, a 15-year-old on his way to shot-put practice, died.

E-bikes have exploded in popularity. They’re fun, easy to ride, fast, relatively affordable, and environmentally friendly. But they are not the same as regular bicycles, safety experts warn. E-bikes are divided into three tiers based on speed, power, and how they’re operated. Class 3 e-bikes can travel at speeds of up to 28 mph. Inexperienced riders—teens in particular—operating e-bikes without proper training and safety equipment or a firm grasp of protocols are getting into life-shattering accidents at alarming rates.

The caring and experienced personal injury attorneys at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn are dedicated to seeking justice for bike accident victims and their families and helping them get their lives back on track. Our team has the resources to conduct a full investigation and help our clients obtain maximum compensation for their losses. We’re also committed to holding local authorities accountable for the safety of our cycling community.