“New York Needs to Move Aggressively to Protect Cyclists and Pedestrians.”
That was the headline on a New York Times editorial last month, sounding the alarm on a danger that many New Yorkers might not yet be aware of.
For the first time in a long time, bicycle and pedestrian accidents are on the rise in New York. 2019 has already seen a significant increase in the number of cyclists killed by drivers, and experts fear the numbers could continue to escalate in the months ahead.
In a city like New York, where walking and biking are an integral part of daily life, pedestrian safety isn’t an issue our leaders can approach passively.
If there is a pedestrian injury problem in New York — and the data clearly shows that there is — then New York must rise to the occasion with solutions that reduce injuries and save lives.
Of course, one can’t devise a solution until one understands the problem.
In this article, we take a hard look at the current crisis: why these accidents are happening, how city and state leaders can intervene, and what you and your family can do if you’ve been injured by a driver in New York.
The Problem: New York Bicycle Accidents Are on the Rise
In New York City alone, the number of daily bike rides currently hovers right around the half-million mark. That’s up from 180,000 just thirteen years ago, according to the Times.
One might expect an increase in bicycle accidents to accompany an increase in bicycle traffic, but until this year, that wasn’t the case.
In fact, 2018 recorded the all-time lowest number of cyclist deaths in New York history. Likewise, between 2014 (when Mayor de Blasio initiated his signature Vision Zero plan) and 2018, pedestrian deaths had dropped by an incredible 40 percent.
But 2019 is a different story. According to the Times, the number of cyclists killed in New York so far this year is more than double the number killed at the same point in 2018. And Pedestrian deaths are up substantially over 2018 as well.
On social media, New York’s cycling communities are growing increasingly vocal about the everyday dangers that seem to be on the rise within their daily commutes.
Bike-cam footage, like this graphic video in the New York Post (capturing a cyclist’s death after a teenage driver ran a red light in Brooklyn), is beginning to raise awareness. Almost daily, helmet-mounted cameras are capturing sidewalk sideswipes and other forms of dangerous driving throughout the city, sometimes going viral online.
Increasingly, pedestrians are demanding action. Those voices are beginning to be heard.
Why Is It Happening?
What is causing the increase in pedestrian and bicycle injuries in New York? The Times piece, penned by its Editorial Board, points to several factors that might be at play:
- An increase in the number of cyclists, especially in light of the city’s popular Citi Bike bike-share program
- An increase in the number of delivery trucks, especially in light of a rise in online shopping and delivery
- An increase in the number of SUVs, which have been shown to pose a greater risk of serious injury or death to cyclists and pedestrians
- An increase in residential development (and thus bicycle and foot traffic) within heavily industrial neighborhoods
- A lack of protective barriers along bike lanes (while New York City now boasts more than 12,000 miles of bike lanes — up from only 500 miles about a decade ago — the Times reports that only about 16% of the new bike lanes feature hardened barriers to protect cyclists from cars)
One thing that hasn’t changed: the role that car and truck drivers play in most pedestrian and bicycle accidents in New York. The overwhelming majority of them are cause by the motorist, not the cyclist or pedestrian, and yet it is the latter who typically suffers the most catastrophic injuries.
What New York Can Do to Curb the Rate of Pedestrian & Bicycle Accidents
To the city’s credit, leadership has not turned a deaf ear to the issue. In July, Mayor de Blasio’s office announced a plan to direct $58.4 million in funding toward the goal of reducing cyclist deaths in New York City.
Specifically, de Blasio’s plan, part of what he calls the “Green Wave,” will focus on the ten neighborhoods with the highest rate of bicycle accidents in New York (most of them located in Brooklyn and Queens).
Among other things, the funding will be used to increase the number of new bike lanes being built with protective barriers. (Currently, there are about 20 miles of those being built in NYC each year. The Green Wave would increase that to 30 miles per year.)
The plan also allows for tougher law enforcement against drivers who veer into unprotected bike lanes while speeding.
The New York Times Editorial Board applauded the plan as a first step but also said it’s not enough.
“Transportation experts, cyclists and groups that advocate for pedestrian and cyclist safety say the plan is a good one and note that many of the measures would benefit pedestrians as well,” the Times writes. “But they also say the city should be doing more — and faster. They’re right.”
We agree. As New York personal injury lawyers, we have seen too many families rocked by the horrors of a traffic accident that should never have happened in the first place. The vast majority of bike accidents in New York are preventable. It is imperative that the city and state do their part to prevent them.
As outlined in the Times, additional measures the government could adopt might include:
- Increasing construction of new protected bike lanes to 50 miles per year instead of 30.
- Installing plastic barriers or speed bumps at intersections where cars must turn through bike lanes.
- Investing in smaller city vehicles that can more easily traverse narrow city streets so that the city can add bike lane barriers on those streets too. (Currently, many streets do not have such barriers for this very reason.)
- Adopting even tougher law enforcement measures (one proposal calls for impounding the vehicle of any driver who receives at least five red-light or speed-camera citations within a one-year period… a measure that would pull as many as 25,000 cars off the road until their drivers complete a safety improvement course).
Your Rights After Getting Injured in a Bicycle Accident in New York
If you have been injured as a cyclist or pedestrian in New York, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation under the laws of our state. Unfortunately, the at-fault drivers and their insurance companies don’t always step up to the plate with the compensation that their victims need and deserve.
Don’t make the mistake of facing an insurance company alone. Don’t settle too soon or for less than you deserve. Before you sign anything with the insurance company, we encourage you to contact the New York bicycle accident lawyers at Lever & Ecker, PLLC to learn more about your options.
Schedule a Free Consultation with our New York Bicycle Accident Lawyers
Lever & Ecker, PLLC is a New York personal injury law firm located in White Plains and serving clients throughout the state, including New York City’s five boroughs (The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island), as well as Westchester County, Rockland County, Long Island, and beyond.
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