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Bike and pedestrian accidents happen in New York despite city efforts

Everyone knows that people in New York City walk, and if they don't walk, they take public transit or bike to work. Despite this, New York is not a very friendly city for walkers and bikers, and motor vehicle accidents involving bicycles and pedestrians happpen almost daily.

Although the number of walkers, bikers and riders of buses and subways has grown, the number of cars has also increased. Additionally, police continue to be reluctant to charge drivers who cause accidents unless there is a fatality. The attitude seems to be that accidents happen and there's just not much that can be done about them.

A few numbers illustrate the degree to which New York City continues to be an inhospitable place for walkers. In 2012, 60 percent of pedestrian and bike fatalities were the result of traffic violations such as speeding and distracted driving. Despite this, police do not seem to be cracking down on such behaviours, issuing more tickets for illegal tinted windows than for speeding in 2011.

To give New York some credit, the Department of Transportation is trying to make the city safer for pedestrians, bikers and users of public transit. It has been spurred on by private advocacy groups such as Transportation Alternatives, an organization that promotes bicycling in the city and advocates for bike lanes, traffic calming measures and pedestrian safety.

In part because of advocacy from public and private groups, bike riding in New York increased by 58 percent between 2008 and 2012. However, 755 bicyclists were injured and three riders died in car-bike crashes in 2011. Only 10 people in cars were injured in these incidents.

The deck is stacked against bike riders and walkers, despite efforts to make the city safer. It seems that New York will be pedestrian and bike-friendly only when the number of cars on city streets actually decreases.

Source: Scientific American, "How Pedestrian-Friendly Are We, Really?" by Erin Brodwin, Apr. 5, 2013.