Bicycle accidents in New York City are on the rise, according to some sources. This is despite measures taken to redesign streets and implement safety measures for cyclists and pedestrians. A recent fatal bicycle accident on the Upper West Side shows the challenge of keeping New York’s bicycle riders safe.
A 13-year-old boy was hit at Columbus Avenue and 77th Street last week when he turned from the crosswalk. But this is simply the most recent tragedy in a growing list of injuries and fatalities resulting from bicycle accidents in the city. Some are high profile, like the accident that injured musician Bono last fall. Others happen with barely a whimper, like the crash that recently killed the child as he rode home from school.
Then there are other types of accidents – those caused by bicyclists themselves. A lengthy article last fall in the New Yorker discussed some of the issues raised by accidents between cyclists and pedestrians. There were 309 pedestrian-bicycle accidents in 2013, according to the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT). This represented an increase of almost 29 percent over the previous year.
The city has reportedly stepped up enforcement of traffic rules for cyclists, but the evidence shows that their efforts have ineffective. Why? The author of the New York article suggests that the fault lies with bike riders themselves and their sense of entitlement that may have been encouraged by the city’s efforts to reduce traffic accidents.
The author of the article chides bike riders who appear to believe that because they are not polluting the atmosphere, they have a free pass and can ignore traffic regulations at will. He goes on to note that such behavior violates the unwritten rules that should govern those who live in big cities, the most important of which is the rule of civility. Blasting through a red light and scattering pedestrians like pigeons is not civil, and cyclists who do this should face the same penalties as the drivers of gas-guzzling motor vehicles.
Is this author right? The evidence certainly indicates that things are going in the wrong direction when it comes to bicyclists and pedestrians. Whether the city will invest the same amount of energy into dealing with scoff-law bike riders as it has to protecting pedestrians from motor vehicles remains to be seen.