Cyclists Injure 500 People Yearly in New York City; Cars Injure 70,000

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According to a new study from two Hunter College professors, approximately 1,000 pedestrians are hit by cyclists and sustain injuries severe enough for hospitalization yearly in New York state. About half of those -- 500 -- are in New York City. In reporting these stats, CBS mentions the city's new bike-sharing program and how this news "may have some wanting [Bloomberg] to hit the brakes." Yet, it bears mentioning that far more cyclists and pedestrians are hit by drivers in the city than people are hit by cyclists, and, in fact, research supports bike-friendly cities being better for everyone on the road.

So is this study just anti-cycling propaganda? Well, not exactly. Some people clearly are irresponsible about cycling, and we're not doubting that the injuries cited did happen. (This new study was done on behalf of the Stuart C. Gruskin Foundation; Gruskin, tragically, was hit and killed by a delivery biker who was riding the wrong direction down the street in 2009.) Transportation Alternatives has spent the summer promoting their Bike Ambassador campaign to change bad behavior on the part of cyclists. But the far greater danger of injury to anyone on the road is from cars, not bikes.

Transportation Alternatives published a report in June, Vision Zero: How Safer Streets In New York City Can Save Over 100 Lives A Year, which found that the biggest problem on the streets is not bike-on-pedestrian, but instead, car-on-everyone. Not only that, measures like bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and pedestrian islands actually help save lives in the cities that have them. From the report,

"New York's streets are downright deadly. Though the city has made impressive strides in recent years to reduce traffic fatalities, traffic violence still claims the lives of hundreds of New Yorkers every year and seriously injures thousands more: over 70,00 people every year," said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. "Any number higher than zero is simply unacceptable. It's time to challenge the culture of acceptance that acts like traffic is as uncontrollable as weather and get serious about saving lives."

Today, Transportation Alternatives issued the following statement regarding the Gruskin Foundation study:

No death or serious injury is acceptable on our streets. There is strong evidence that bike behavior is improving as bicycling is becoming more mainstream. According to the study, bike on pedestrian injuries declined 15% from 2007 to 2010. During this same four year period, bicycling in New York City increased over 50 percent. Through our Biking Rules and NYC Bike Ambassadors programs we are doing all we can to further strengthen this trend toward safer, more respectful cycling.

Let's also remember to put this in context. Motor vehicles are responsible for over 70,000 injuries every year in New York City, and hundreds of annual deaths. We can ignore that number and bash bikes, or we can get serious about safety and work to stop all traffic casualties.

We've reached out to the folks behind the Gruskin Foundation study to get their take, and will update when we hear back. But for now, it seems these stats should do little to make anyone want to put the brakes on the city's bike sharing program, or on bikes in general. Just follow the traffic rules, and we can all get along.

Study: Approximately 1,000 Pedestrians Struck By Bikes Annually In New York [CBS]

[JDoll / @thisisjendoll]

Go to Runnin' Scared for all our latest news coverage.

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10 comments
Carlos
Carlos

Jeremy is right, and by the way, who CARES how many blogs he may have posted on? Ad hominem arguments do not build your case; they only expose its weakness.

You cannot just look at a raw figure stating how many pedestrian injuries or fatalities are due to bikes. What the numbers don't tell you is the rampant disregard of traffic laws by bike riders, the frequent riding on the sidewalk and running red lights. I am legally blind. I can't see these rogue riders until they're right on top of me. I've been hit twice, but the number of near misses is more than I can count. The sense of constant danger, the fear that any moment out of nowhere a bike may come at you, the feeling of intimidation affecting especially disabled and elderly people walking our own streets minding our own business, is a true quality of life issue not reflected by the figures. Transportation Alternatives pays good lip service to this, but it is quite clear that their real heart and energy go into protecting cyclists, not pedestrians. Defending bike mayhem by claiming that cars are even worse is no defense; it is an insult.

Opus the Poet
Opus the Poet

OK there are 140 times as many peds  injured by motor vehicles as there are by bicycles. If there was an equal likelyhood of injury between the two modes that would mean a mode share of 0.7% for bikes. But the current mode share for bikes is given as 3%. Doing the math that means motor vehicles are 4 1/3 times as likely to injure a pedestrian and there are 33 times as many motor vehicles as there are bikes, if this ratio holds that means that as cycling increases the number of injured pedestrians decreases, and the severity of their injuries decreases as well as was pointed out by the ratios of patients admitted for at least 24 hours as compared to those treated and released which was roughly 2 to 1 in favor of the treated and released.

What is needed in this is another study that compares the number of pedestrians hit by motor vehicles, and their ratios of admissions to treated and released, with the same data for cyclists, with a comparison of mode share that is more accurate than my flawed memory. I think the outcome of such a study may eventually end in much stricter licensing standards for drivers, or the eventual banning of private motor vehicles.

ddartley
ddartley

An important takeaway from the study:  Bike/ped injuries have trended downward in the years that saw the expansion of protected bike lanes and the growth of NYC's cycling population.

m to the i
m to the i

This study does not say that cyclists hit 500 pedestrians in New York City.  The study does not assign blame.  The study simply says that there were about 500 incidents between bicycles and pedestrians where a pedestrian sought medical treatment.  In my experience as a cyclist, I would assume that not all of these incidents were caused by bicyclists.

Jeremy
Jeremy

It's awfully discouraging that Transportation Alternatives does not take bike vs. ped injuries more seriously.  Any real effort at discussion of pedestrian safety with respect to cyclist behavior is characterized as "bash[ing] bikes" by TA spokespeople.  Ticketing cyclists who break the law by endangering pedestrians on quiet park promendades is called "ridiculous" by this lobbying group.

One would hope that TA would use this opportunity to call for increased protection for pedestrians from dangerous cyclists. However, as bl1y also notes, they're going on a press offensive to try and shell game the injuries to the 500 pedestrians by comparing the number to *all* injuries (70,000) sustained in all car accidents (including highway accidents), not car vs. pedestrian.  It's cynically, deliberately misleading.  If one were looking for a moment that crystallized Transportation Alternatives' disregard for pedestrians when it comes to rogue cyclists, it's now.

saimin
saimin

Not only do car drivers cause many more injuries than bicyclists, but car related injuries are much more severe. That is why cars kill hundreds of people every year in New York City, but bicycles kill how many?

bl1y
bl1y

Simply comparing the raw number of cyclist-caused injuries and car-caused injuries isn't particularly useful. You need to also look at the number of cyclists and cars on the road.

Cars may cause 140x more accidents, but what if there were 140x more cars on the road? Then, they'd be equally safe. And remember, some cars carry more than one person, so getting rid of one car might mean adding 2 bikes.

You also have to look at injuries reduced by cars. A collision that sends a biker to the hospital may have only caused an exchange of insurance information if he'd been in a car.

I'll buy that bikes are safer, but the 500 vs. 70,000 comparison is off the mark.

Brian Van Nieuwenhoven
Brian Van Nieuwenhoven

TA takes all accidents seriously. They're advocates of "safe streets", not "bike streets". But virtually everything that they say... and virtually everything that the DOT does to make streets safe... is twisted and ridiculed by the media, who seem to be the biggest voting bloc against traffic reconfiguration by far. Anyone who wants to see what I'm talking about can go to the Transportation Alternatives website to see exactly what they have to say, without clever editing or opinionated qualifiers. Then go look at most of the other news outlets and see how they've twisted both the original report and the TA's responses.

And Jeremy, you must like your copy-paste function because I see you've left this exact comment on numerous blogs. You seem to have an agenda here.Yes, bicycles are dangerous when operated irresponsibly. So are cars. So are skateboards. We could talk about that all day. Numerous sources, including TA and Ms. Gruskin's foundation, are trying to make people aware how their behavior contributes to that problem and how lawful use of the roads can eliminate the danger. And the police have to fill in the gaps, focusing on eliminating dangerous behavior and de-prioritizing all of the ticky-tacky ticketing nonsense they seem to enjoy (like illegally parked cars or cyclists who ride up curb cuts directly to their own garages on empty streets and sidewalks). All the bickering aside, safe streets that are used responsibly benefit all citizens. 

Jdoll
Jdoll

Point being that 1,000 pedestrians injured yearly statewide is not a call to dismantled a bike-share program, and that actually, there are far more injuries in which cars are involved. No need for complicated math here.

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