Is Manhattan Safe For Cyclists?

Is Manhattan Safe For Cyclists?Biking has become increasingly common in Manhattan and the rest of New York City. In 2008, only 23,500 people biked to work. By 2021, that number had climbed to 55,000. Manhattan is just one part of New York City, but it has also seen exponential growth in riders. Daily cycling increased by 104% here in the ten years preceding 2021. Do these numbers reflect a greater sense of safety, or is cycling still a dangerous activity in Manhattan?

Bike Accident Statistics for New York City

Drivers in New York City do not have the best reputation. Taxi drivers have become notorious for their aggressive tactics as they rush to pick up passengers and get them to their destinations on time. Not surprisingly, collisions with cyclists have remained a problem in New York City for several decades and taxi drivers are not the only offenders.

In 2018, bike accidents totaled 18,718 in New York City. Eight of these accidents resulted in fatalities. In 2019, the fatalities doubled, but the total number of bike accidents decreased to 18,494. In 2020, traffic patterns in New York City changed drastically, but there were still 28 fatalities that resulted from bike accidents. That’s even though bike accidents had dipped to 12,450 that year.

When it comes to biking in New York City, Manhattan is not the borough with the worst reputation. That title goes to Brooklyn. The New York Times dubbed it the most dangerous place for cyclists. It accounted for 60% of the 28 fatalities that occurred in 2020.

Factors That Contribute To Bike Accidents in Manhattan

Manhattan is a busy urban center. It attracts people from all across America and around the world. These people use roadways differently, creating confusion and unpredictable road-use behaviors. Here are some additional factors to consider.

Distracted Drivers

In recent years, distracted driving has become a significant concern. The prevalence of smartphones means that drivers are more likely to be looking at or interacting with their devices while driving. This can lead to dangerous situations for cyclists, who the driver may not see until it is too late.

Impaired Drivers

Alcohol and drug use can also impair drivers’ ability to make sound judgments while behind the wheel. This is especially true in Manhattan, where it’s not uncommon to find people who are intoxicated and driving.

Reckless Drivers

The New York Times identified failure to yield, speeding and careless driving as top factors that cause traffic accidents. It shared that while drivers often blame cyclists for darting unexpectedly into traffic, police reports say differently. Police found cyclists at fault in only 5% of crashes that led to fatalities.

High Traffic Volumes

Manhattan roads are often congested with vehicles. This can make it difficult for cyclists to navigate safely, as drivers might not anticipate a cyclist’s movements in time to avoid an accident. The increased traffic can also make some drivers willing to take risks that put others in danger.

Lack of Bike Lanes and Other Safety Measures

The lack of dedicated bike lanes or other safety measures on Manhattan roads can put cyclists at risk of accidents. In New York City, the Department of Transportation is responsible for ensuring the safety of cyclists. However, cyclists need faster progress when it comes to creating dedicated bike lanes and other safety measures in Manhattan.

Consequences for Drivers Involved in Bike Accidents

The New York Times found that drivers rarely faced severe consequences for the bike accidents they caused. For example, of 28 fatalities in one year, only four drivers faced arrest and eight drivers received a summons.

It also reports a story involving one woman who died after a collision on a street with no bike lane. A judge revoked the driver’s license after ruling that he was responsible for the crash. Yet, he faced no criminal charges.

Thankfully, bike accident victims or their survivors may have the option to pursue compensation in court. An experienced bike accident attorney may help them secure medical help, reconstruct the accident, build a strong case and pursue a successful personal injury or wrongful death claim.

The Implementation and Impact of Vision Zero in New York City

Switzerland is one of the most bike-friendly countries in the world. Unsurprisingly, the Swiss created the Vision Zero approach to road safety, which treats all fatalities as preventable. European cities leveraged the system to achieve remarkable results. These results attracted the attention of Los Angeles and Chicago, which also followed suit and saw progress.

Vision Zero quickly became adopted in New York City as well. While it has led to some impressive results, people in Manhattan and other boroughs continue to ask the city to do more. So, what exactly is Vision Zero? It describes New York City’s plan to eliminate traffic injuries and fatalities. Here are some of the measures used in the Big Apple:

  • Dangerous vehicle abatement program
  • Reduced speed limits in some areas
  • Automated enforcement review
  • Improvements to infrastructure
  • Traffic cameras

New York City’s efforts were not in vain. In 2022, traffic fatalities declined for the first time since 2019. Despite the continued increase in cyclists, New York reported that fatalities had fallen to 17. Pedestrian deaths also reached a record-low at a 35.9% decline.

How To Stay Safe While Riding

Getting back on a bike might feel like a terrifying experience after sustaining injuries or losing a loved one. The truth is that cyclists cannot control the negligent behaviors of other road users, and there is no guarantee of safety when sharing the road. Even so, there are some ways cyclists can improve their chances of staying safe and staying alive.

Wear a Helmet

A helmet can help protect your head if you fall off your bike or get into an accident. Look for one that fits snugly on your head and has the proper rating for the intended use. It should also have straps that can be adjusted, so the helmet stays in place when riding. Remember that the helmets recommended for regular bikes might not be sufficient for riding e-bikes.

Prioritize Visibility

Be sure to wear brightly colored clothing and use lights and reflectors. During the day, wear fluorescent colors that will stand out in traffic. Ensure your bike has a light on the front and a reflector on the back at night. This way, cars that approach from behind will be able to see you coming.

Follow Traffic Rules

Bicycles can quickly swerve in and out of traffic but resist the temptation. Always follow the traffic rules and ensure you know the right way to yield when turning or crossing intersections. Additionally, use hand signals when turning to let drivers know your intentions in advance.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Don’t ride with headphones or use a smartphone, as this can distract you from potential dangers. Be aware of cars around you and try to make eye contact with drivers whenever possible. Stay vigilant at intersections, and never assume drivers have seen you before turning or crossing in front of them.

How a Bike Accident Attorney Can Help

Even with the best precautions, the day may come when you need legal assistance with a bike accident case. Choose attorneys that have a proven record of success. At Cellino Law, we have recovered more than $2 billion for cyclists and others who suffered injuries. Contact us for a free case review.



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