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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.