Riding “salmon”, that is against the flow of traffic (like a salmon swimming upstream) is a dangerous practice for cyclists. A pedal cyclist is treated much like a “vehicle” for purposes of the rules of the road, and as such cyclists are obligated to ride with the flow of traffic. Riding salmon increases the relative closing speeds between the salmon rider and anyone approaching them and decreases the time available to react and avoid collision. The risk of collision created by the salmon rider can be further increased if the path available is small, such as may exist on a relatively narrow cycling/shared use path, as the riders may react to one another’s presence by shifting position only to find that their adversary has mirrored the move.
The dangers inherent in the practice of riding salmon were highlighted recently in a tragic collision between two cyclists in Los Angeles. According to bikinginla.wordpress.com and the San Gabriel Tribune, a cyclist who collided with a salmon rider suffered fatal head trauma in the ensuing crash. The crash further demonstrates the importance of using a bike helmet, as the rider who was killed was not wearing a helmet, whereas the salmon rider, who was reportedly wearing a helmet, was not significantly injured. Given that the salmon cyclist was in violation of the law at the time of the accident, there is the very real potential that they may now face criminal or civil liability in connection with this tragic death.
Click here to access biking in LA’s excellent and detailed summary on the crash.