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Is New York City becoming more dangerous for cyclists?

On Behalf of Palacios Law Group

Inspired by a similar program established in Sweden, then-New York Mayor Bill de Blasio created Vision Zero in 2014 to reduce fatal vehicle accidents among pedestrians and cyclists. Under Vision Zero, the mayor implemented criminal charges against traffic violators, enforced slow zones, encouraged the use of speed cameras, and even passed legislation that introduced harsher penalties on reckless drivers and taxis.

But as of April 2023, this year has seen more New Yorker cyclists die due to vehicle collisions than in any other year since the program began nine years ago.

Is New York City becoming more dangerous for cyclists despite the efforts of Vision Zero?

What makes NYC dangerous in the first place?

The problem with New York City’s cyclist safety might be its lack of adequately protected bike lanes. By the end of 2022, the city only managed to install 19.2 out of the 30 miles of protected bike lanes it had pledged to build.

Politics might also have something to do with it. In late 2022, the International Transport Forum published a study that found that New York cyclists are 25 times more likely to perish in an accident than in Vancouver. The study also concluded that some cities were more “politically willing” to take street space from private vehicles and redesign them for bicycle use. Those cities were also much quicker to implement their cyclist safety measures.

What can you do as a cyclist to avoid injuries or death?

Head injuries are some of the more common injuries sustained by cyclists following a crash, but any extremity is fair game to damage. But depending on factors such as impact speed, size of the vehicle, and how the crash occurred, your injuries following the collision could be much worse – or fatal.

Wearing a helmet can help protect your head in the event of a collision, but there are other less obvious things you can do to avoid injury or death:

  • Ensure that you are highly visible to drivers: Make sure you have reflectors on your person or your bike. Avoid riding in drivers’ blind spots.
  • Stick to bike lanes: Even if they aren’t protected, bike lanes are still a safer option to consider over the open road. Also note that in New York City, only children 12 years old and younger can ride on the sidewalk.
  • Obey all traffic signs and pavement markings: Traffic signs aren’t just for cars; always pay attention to signage and signals while riding.

Between a fully enclosed motor vehicle and a cyclist exposed to the elements, the cyclist has more to lose and risk during a collision. As any driver is encouraged to drive safely, so should cyclists ride safely.

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