New York City bicyclists are fighting for their lives on the road. Last week, NYC saw its 22nd bicycle fatality of the year. According to Daily News, Mario Valnzuela, a 14-year-old from Queens, was riding his bike on Borden Avenue on Saturday when a Mack truck fatally struck him while making a right-hand turn. The Transportation Alternatives’ Deputy Director Ellen McDermott stated the crash was a “blatant criminal violation of the Right of Way law.” Unfortunately, these types of unnecessary tragedies keep occurring.
Over 460,000 cyclists in NYC are putting their safety at risk every day. While drivers are hoping to make it home on time, cyclists are hoping to make it home at all. This level of fear in a society booming with innovative technology and design is entirely unacceptable.
Bicycle riders in NYC should not have to fear for their lives. All New Yorkers can do their part to prevent bicycle accidents by understanding why bicycle fatalities occur, knowing how to share the roads, and what changes they can advocate for in their community to make streets safer for cyclists.
Cycling Accident Trends in NYC
In 2018, NYC recorded 10 bicycle fatalities in the entire year compared to the 22 cyclist fatalities we’ve seen so far in 2019. From aggressive and inattentive drivers to an insufficient number of bike lanes, bicycle riders in NYC are struggling to stay safe on their daily commutes. These are some of the most common factors contributing to accidents:
- Driver Inattention:Whether they are distracted, fatigued, intoxicated, or other, most bicycle accidents occur when drivers are not looking at the road. Motorists are making turns and changing lanes without thinking about checking for bikers and as a result, causing catastrophic accidents to occur when a rider appears.
- Drivers Who Don’t Respect Bicycles:Some drivers are well aware that a bicyclist is sharing the road, but don’t believe they should be. Aggressive drivers who are making risky maneuvers to get to their destination may drive recklessly around a cyclist they believe is slowing them down. Speeding is one of the most deadly aggressive driving behaviors on the road leading to bicycle fatalities. When drivers are speeding, they are less likely to see a cyclist in time to stop.
- On-Street Parking:According to StreetsBlog there are up to 4.4 million on-street parking spots that drivers fight for in NYC every day. Cyclists are often forced to dodge parking cars and people who are entering and exiting their vehicles. Dooring is a common accident that occurs when someone opens a car door into the path of a cyclist, resulting in serious impact injuries and sometimes causing the cyclist to veer into fast-moving traffic.
- Lack of Bike Lanes:There is no denying that more bike lanes have begun to pop up around NYC, but the number is not nearly enough. NPRreports NYC has built an average of 62 miles of bike lanes each year over the past several years. However, when considering that the city has more than 6,000 miles of streets, this means only 1 in 5 includes a bike lane.
- Lack of Protected Bike Lanes:Not all bike lanes are equal. Bike lanes that do not have protective barriers, such as concrete, planters, or curbs, leave cyclists vulnerable to vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, most of the bike lanes created in NYC are not protected, only painted. Cars can easily cross over into these green lanes, posing a risk to cyclists. Some cars even park in these lanes requiring bicycles to swerve into traffic to avoid a crash.
- Introduction of Dockless Bikes:Hundreds of dockless bikes popped up across the city this summer that threw road traffic for a loop. NYC was already ill-equipped to accommodate the increase in daily bikers hitting the road. Now, hundreds of new, sometimes first time riders, fill the streets on any given day.
- More Cars:Another reason why bicyclists find it hard to share the road is that more cars than ever are occupying the space. According to amNewYork, New Yorkers are turning more to ride-sharing options and personal vehicles than mass transit. More cars on the road only increase the chance for bicycle accidents to occur.
Bicycle Fatalities Across America
NYC is not the only U.S. city struggling with an increase in bicycle fatalities. In 2017, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.) reported 783 cyclist deaths across the country. While other traffic fatality statistics have decreased, bicycle fatalities have increased by 25 percent since 2010, and were up 10 percent in 2018 alone.
The push to encourage Americans to bike more and drive less is one of the biggest contributors to why cycling fatalities are spinning out of control. As more bikers hit the road, cities are realizing how poorly their streets are designed to accommodate the influx of bicycle traffic. The majority of U.S. streets are designed to be car-friendly. Biking is a healthier and more environmentally-friendly mode of transportation for Americans, but without making significant changes, unnecessary cycling fatalities will continue to rise.
Safety Advocates Demand Change
Cycling is the future of NYC, and bicycle enthusiasts are demanding change. This past July, over 1,000 cyclists staged a “die-in” in Washington Square Park. The protest was to raise awareness regarding the growing number of bicycle fatalities in the city and to encourage drivers to share the roads.
Other safety groups are taking a more direct approach to improve road safety for cyclists by suggesting policy and infrastructure changes. According to StreetsBlog, leaders of 13 street safety groups led by Transportation Alternatives made the following requests from the city this summer:
- 100 miles of protected bike lanes in two years;
- Bike only traffic on some key routes;
- Lower speed limits;
- Less engagement with community boards; and
- Fewer delays in life-saving street redesigns.
Some of the largest concerns addressed by the groups referred to bike lanes, particularly gaps in protected lanes and the lack of protection on painted lanes. Bikers are finding it increasingly dangerous to reenter traffic when a protected bike lane ends, as passing cars are not slowing down or paying attention to them entering the road. Other riders report frequently having to swerve around cars which use the green painted, non-protected bike lanes as opportunities for passing or parking.
The Vision Zero plan initiated five years ago to eliminate traffic deaths in NYC addressed street designs as a goal for reducing bicycle accidents. Installing protected bike lanes, creating safer intersections, and reducing traffic congestion were all part of the plan. However, bicyclists have seen little consistency in the implementation of these changes that would make them feel more comfortable on the road.
How To Share The Road
Street designs and policy changes do not happen overnight. To help save lives, all New York drivers must do their part to help keep cyclists safe on the road. According to the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, here are some ways drivers can safely share the road to reduce accidents:
- Yield to Cyclists:NYS law considers bicycles vehicles. They must obey the laws of the road, and drivers must include them in the right of way laws at intersections. Drivers should give cyclists space and time to navigate through intersections. Going “too slow” is never an excuse to deny them the right of way.
- Drive Slowly: Speeding only increases the chance for fatal accidents to occur. Drive slowly around cyclists and through intersections to provide enough time to react appropriately.
- Pass with Care:Passing a cyclist too closely or quickly can lead to life-threatening injuries. Leave at least four feet of space when passing a cyclist. If you cannot safely pass, don’t.
- Be Considerate:Be considerate of cyclists on the road. These riders have little to no protection in the case of an accident.
- Watch for Children:Children on bicycles can be unpredictable. Stay alert when you see a child riding a bike on the road and never assume you know which direction they are going.
New York City and Long Island Bicycle Accident Attorneys
Our personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Siler & Ingber, have over 20 years of experience serving bicycle accident victims across New York City and Long Island. We protect your rights by maximizing recovery and securing the financial support you need to succeed on the road to recovery. Our winning attorneys know how to navigate through the claim process using past experience as insurance defense attorneys. We are not afraid to fight and are fully prepared to take your case to trial to get a justified verdict over settling for less.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle accident due to the negligence of another, our team at Siler & Ingber are here to help. With a 98% success rate, we have the experience and the know-how to help our clients achieve a favorable outcome. Contact us today at 1-877-529-4343, or schedule an appointment online anytime. We never charge a fee unless we recover money for you.