In all five New York City boroughs, approximately 90,000 people commute to work every day with bicycles. The Citi Bike rental service started in 2013 and by 2017 it had over 130,000 members, and that number was growing. It sounds like New York City embraces bicyclists, but there are two other stats that tell a different story. By September of 2017, there were 13 bicycling deaths in New York City and 2,700 injuries of all types. When 2017 had ended, 24 bicyclists had lost their lives on city streets. Bicycling accidents are becoming all too common in New York City and the city is trying to respond.
In response to the rising number of traffic deaths in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio created the Vision Zero program. It is an initiative that attempts to utilize the powers of the government and the will of the people to make the streets of New York City safer. The program includes the construction of dozens of miles of new city bicycle lanes that are designed to help give bicyclists a safe way to get around the city. But as the mayor is finding out, the grassroots part of the Vision Zero is not as easy to develop as the new bicycle lanes were to build.
The Tragic Tale Of An Australian Visitor
In August 2018, a young Australian tourist had made what she considered to be the dream vacation journey to New York City. She had always wanted to cycle the streets of New York City and experience what the city had to offer. While riding her rented Citi Bike in one of the new bicycling lanes, she was cut off by a taxi cab that had illegally used the bicycle lane to try and pass another vehicle. When she swerved to avoid the cab, she was hit by a city garbage truck.
The Self-Made Delivery Driver
Later in August 2018, a young delivery driver from Guatemala was going through an intersection using the bicycle lanes. While the car that struck him had right of way, it was also significantly exceeding the speed limit. A young man who had made his own way in New York City from the age of 14 was killed by another motorist with no regard for bicyclists.
And In The Bronx
In 2013, the Bronx had the least amount of bicyclists of the five boroughs with only 3.7 percent of motorists opting for bicycles. While some Bronx residents cited the long biking distance from the Bronx to Manhattan as a reason why they do not commute to work on bikes, most said that the generally dangerous conditions for bicyclists in the Bronx was the other reason they opted for cars.
In the Bronx, regular road construction often eliminates safe bicycle lanes. Even when there are safe places to bicycle, motorists tend to not pay attention to bicyclists and that causes a lot of accidents and injuries.
The Bottom Line
The Vision Zero program is a bold attempt by the city government to reduce bicycling deaths in the five boroughs, and it is working to a certain extent. But the real problem with cycling in New York City is the lack of respect motor vehicles give to bicycles. To many car drivers, the new bicycle lanes are convenient passing lanes in a city where passing vehicles is not easy. For the city to truly get the problem under control, it has to find a way to get motorists to respect bicyclists and give people on bicycles the space they need to be safe.
What If You Get In A Bicycling Accident?
Your first priority after being in a bicycling accident is to get emergency medical care. Unfortunately, another problem the city is having is that police officers tend to not write tickets for motorists who hit bicyclists. Even the driver who hit the young Latino bicyclist was never given a ticket or charged with anything.
Bicyclists have to watch out for each other. If there is an accident, someone needs to get the license plate number of the motor vehicle involved. Bicyclists can seek justice in New York City’s civil courts by filing personal injury lawsuits against motorists who do not respect the laws of the road.