80 people were injured in bicycle accidents in New York City between March 9th and March 15th compared to 56 during the same week last year. This 42.9% increase occurred as more and more New Yorkers make the decision to ride a bike instead of taking the subway during the COVID-19 crisis.
Distracting driving is the number one cause of bicycle accident injuries in New York City
Unfortunately despite significant safety improvements implemented by the Vision Zero program, riding a bike in the city is still dangerous especially for newbies. Among the 80 bicycle accident injuries reported by the NYPD, 38 occurred in Brooklyn, 19 in Manhattan, 11 in the Bronx, 11 in Queens and 1 in Staten Island. Distracted driving and failure to yield were the most common causes of injuries with 33 accidents caused by distracted drivers and 15 caused by failures to yield.
Traffic fatalities in New York City were up again last year after five years of decline (see previous blog). A recent article in the New York Times takes an in-depth look at the NYC motor vehicle accident crashes to find out if it was possible to identify specific patterns in the accidents that lead to injuries and deaths. The findings show that despite the common perception that pedestrians are not careful enough while crossing the street and that cyclists ride like dare-devils, most pedestrian and bicyclist deaths were caused by distracted driving or failure to yield. Pedestrian and cyclist errors were only cited in 5% of the fatalities.
When a driver fatally hits a pedestrian or a cyclist in New York, there is a good chance that he or she will not face serious consequences as long as the driver is not drunk and stays at the scene of the accident. Last year 28 cyclists died after being struck by vehicles but only 4 drivers were arrested . 8 others received a summons. The police often blame the victim. Last year, Susan Moses, a 63 year old woman was killed by a Lyft driver on a busy street with no bike lane. In their report, the police blame Ms Moses for moving across the road to turn left and not wearing a helmet. They did not charge the driver despite camera footage showing the Lyft driver recklessly crossing the double line in the middle of Kings Highway to try to pass the cyclist as she was trying to turn. Later on in a very rare move, a judge from the Department of Motor Vehicle reviewed the footage and revoked the driver’s license. The judge said that she didn’t agree with the police statement and that the driver was responsible for the accident. Previous to working for Lyft, The driver who killed Ms Mos used to work for Uber but he accumulated so many complaints from passengers that Uber removed him from the App in 2018.
Some locations such as Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Third Avenue and Southern Brooklyn are among the most dangerous areas for cyclists to ride. Brooklyn has the most cyclist deaths among all New York City boroughs. Other locations such as 125th Street and Chelsea in Manhattan as well as the South area of Prospect Park have a high rate of pedestrian accidents. A significant part of the accidents are caused by trucks and large vehicles such as SUVs.
A pedestrian was killed by a car and a cyclist was seriously injured after being struck by a van in New York City last week. Both accidents were caused by reckless drivers.
A man walking his dog in Bay Ridge died after he was struck by a speeding 19 year old driver. 66 year old Frank Decolvenaere was crossing in the crosswalk at the intersection of Fourth Ave and 101 Street around 7:00 pm on Thursday when he was struck by a speeding Mercedez Benz 350. Since 2019, the car had 4 school speeding violations, 4 parking tickets and an expired inspection sticker. Frank was found lying in the crosswalk covered in blood. His dog ran 10 blocks home to alert his wife. (Read more in Street Blog)
Earlier during the week, on Tuesday, a 25 year old driver backing her car out of a driveway hit a 57 year old pedestrian. The accident occurred at a private driveway locate at 30-23 69th Street in Elmhurst, Queens. The man was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The woman stayed at the scene of the accident and wasn’t charged (Read more in QNS)
24 cyclists, 116 pedestrians, 17 motor vehicle passengers and 57 drivers were killed in 209,291 auto accidents in New York City in 2019. The total number of accidents recorded last year was significantly lower than the 3 previous years during which it was above 227,000 however traffic fatalities were higher last year than the two previous years.
After reaching a record low at 199 in 2018, crash fatalities in New York increased to 214 last year. Since 2013 traffic fatalities gradually went down every year. This is the first year since Vision Zero was implemented in 2014 that fatalities went back up from one year to the other. While fatalities are globally on a declining trend despite the recent increase last year, the number of people injured in car accidents in New York is on a rising trend. NYC Auto accident injuries reached a record high last year and were above 6,000 for the first time. They slightly decreased in 2019 but kept around the 6,000 level. The increase in injuries sustained in car crashes is mostly due to a rising number of drivers being injured. One reason might be that because the speed limit was lower in the city, less people are dying in car accidents but more are injured. Distracted driving might be another reason why more drivers are getting injured in auto accidents in New York.
Bicyclists are the only category of New York road users who continue to experience a rising trend of accidents, injuries and deaths. After cyclists fatalities reached a record low at 9 in 2018, they reached a record high at 24 in 2019. Last year as bicycle fatalities were surging quickly, Mayor de Blasio announced a new bike safety plan entitled the Green Wave. The plan is:
Following the increase in fatal bicycle accidents in New York City last year the DOT recently announced that New Yorkers would get 30 more miles of protected bike lanes all over the city this year.
The de Blasio administration has so far announced that 10 of the 30 miles would be allocated to Brooklyn and 10 others to Manhattan. In Brooklyn where most fatalities occurred last year, cyclists will soon have protected bike lanes while riding along 4th Avenue north to the Barclay Center, while riding out of the new Kosciuszko Bridge on Meeker Avenue and on Navy Street close to the Brooklyn Navy Yard as well as on Remsen Ave in Canarsie.
On the map released by the DOT at a previous conference (see picture), the pink lines show the protected bike lanes that will be added this year in Brooklyn and the yellow lines show potential protected bike lanes that might be added in 2021. The green lines are the existing bike lanes. Read more here
A cyclist was killed in a truck accident in NYC last week.
41 year old Pedro Lopez is the first cyclist to die in a traffic accident in New York City in 2020. He was killed by a reckless truck driver who was making an illegal U-turn at high speed on Vandervoort Avenue in Brooklyn. The accident occured on Thursday around 2:40 pm. The cyclist was rear ended by the truck. He was rushed to the hospital where he later died from his injuries.
Despite a video showing the recklessness of the truck driver, the police didn’t charge him
Last year 28 cyclists died in traffic accidents in New York City and more than half of them were killed by trucks and SUVs. Most of the time the driver was a man.
Last Friday, the DOT announced that it invested 4 million in a new campaign targeting men driving trucks and SUVs. The “Was it Worth it?” campaign depicts images of pedestrian and bicycle accidents with a male driver in shock and the message “Was it worth it?” in various languages. Additional audio campaigns will also be run in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole on several local radio stations during commuting time.
Since Mayor de Blasio launched Vision Zero in 2014, traffic fatalities decreased over the years except for last year. 203 people died in car accidents in 2019. More than half of them were pedestrians. On average over the last few years, men were found to be responsible for 75% of the fatalities with 41% of them driving a truck or a SUV.
29 cyclists and 122 pedestrians were among the 219 victims who died in traffic accidents in New York City last year. The yearly number of traffic fatalities in the city increased last year for the first time since Vision Zero was launched in 2014. The year earlier, in 2018, 203 people died in NYC motor vehicle accidents.
Brooklyn had the highest number of fatalities with 74 victims including 18 cyclists and 34 pedestrians. 64 people died in vehicle crashes occurring in Queens. 41 auto accident deaths were recorded in Manhattan, 27 in the Bronx and 6 in Staten Island. According to Streetblog, reckless driving remains the main cause of fatal crashes but drivers are rarely charged. It is often difficult to understand why some drivers are charged when others are let off the hook. Among the 148 drivers who killed a pedestrian or a cyclist 76 were not charged. In a tribute to those who have passed in NYC auto accidents, Street Blog listed all the accidents by months with the name of the victims if released, a description of the accident and if the driver was charged or not.
A summary of pedestrian and cyclists fatalities in 2019 by month
Despite an increase in bicycle accident fatalities and in motorist injuries the total number of NYC motor vehicle accidents and the total number of resulting injuries and deaths decreased during the third trimester of 2019 compared to the third trimester of 2018. The total number of accidents declined from 57,642 during the third trimester of 2018 to 52,567 during the third trimester of 2019. This is the lowest number of crashes since the same period of 2014.
While a high number of fatal bicycle accidents painted a very negative picture of New York street safety, not all numbers are bad. For example pedestrians fatalities were at their lowest during the period of July, August and September 2019. Motorists fatalities were lower than the two previous years during this same period and passengers fatalities were stable.
The total number of auto accident related injuries were slightly lower than the previous year. A total of 167,083 people were injured in traffic accidents during over the summer 2019 compared to respectively 16,300, 15,860, 16,048, 13,998, 13,472, and 14,900 during the same 3 months of 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013. Motorists injuries account for almost half of the injuries and continue to increase. While efforts to protect pedestrians has led to a substantial decrease in pedestrian injuries and deaths, distracted driving remains the number one cause of motor vehicle accidents in New York City and needs to be addressed.