NYPD collision and injury data indicates that bicycle safety has improved on the East Side in recent years. Photo: Michael Garofalo
There are more bikes than ever on the city’s streets. About three-quarters of a million New Yorkers ride a bicycle regularly, according to the city’s Department of Transportation — over 250,000 more than five years ago — but data indicates that cyclists’ safety is improving even as their numbers increase.
Though annual bike fatalities citywide have remained relatively flat in recent years, when increased ridership is taken into account by measuring on a per-trip basis, the fatality rate for cyclists dropped 71 percent between 2000 and 2015, according to a recent DOT study.
On Manhattan’s East Side, the number of traffic collisions involving cyclists is on pace to continue on a downward trend: to date, there have been 228 collisions involving cyclists in 2017, down from 350 in 2016 and 373 in 2015, according to NYPD data. The number of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians injured in collisions on the East Side dropped over the same period.
Since 2012, 1,194 cyclists have been injured in collisions with motor vehicle on the East Side, but none have been killed, according to an analysis of NYPD data covering East Side zip codes from 26th to 96th Streets performed by the office of Council Member Ben Kallos. Thirty-nine pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles over the same period, along with 2,722 injured. Since 2012, no pedestrians have been killed in collisions with bicycles in the East Side zip codes covered in the analysis.
Police in the 17th and 19th precincts have issued 1,557 summonses to bicyclists so far this year, mostly for running red lights and failing to give pedestrians the right of way. Motor vehicle operators received nearly 16,000 summonses in the two precincts over the same period, including 1,541 to drivers for not giving the right of way to pedestrians.
The two East Side precincts have also placed heavy emphasis on enforcing the city’s ban on electric bicycle use, confiscating 103 to date this year — accounting for more than 10 percent of all e-bikes seized by the NYPD citywide.
In addition to targeting individuals who ride the motorized bikes, most of whom are food delivery workers, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in October that the city would soon begin fining the businesses that employ them. Starting in 2018, businesses that use e-bikes or allow employees to use them will be subject to fines of $100 for a first offense and $200 for each subsequent offense.
On the East Side, the enforcement regime has been accompanied by an educational push, which includes DOT-sponsored training sessions for business owners and delivery riders. Free safety vests, lights and bells are distributed at the trainings, which are part of a bike safety program led by Kallos and fellow Council Member Dan Garodnick. “I think what’s been most effective is going to restaurants door to door with DOT and giving them information and equipment they need,” Kallos said.
Kallos applauded the work of the East 72nd Neighborhood Association, which has released reports grading local restaurants on their bike safety practices, including whether riders wore vests, displayed identification tags or rode e-bikes. Kallos said he hopes that other neighborhood associations in his district will join in similar surveys, “so that every restaurant on the East Side is getting a letter grade and those guides are found in every lobby in the district. Consumer behavior will drive restaurants to adopt better practices.”
Perhaps the most significant development of the last year for East Side bikers was the long-awaited implementation of protected bike lanes southbound Second Avenue from 110th to 68th Streets. Kallos said the new bike lane has helped improve safety for cyclists in the district, but that it needs to be expanded further south. “I am a fan of the Second Avenue protected bike lane, but it stops once you reach the sixties, which are the most dangerous intersections in the district,” Kallos said, adding that he also plans to push for more crosstown bike lanes on the East Side.
The DOT has prioritized the expansion of bike lanes in recent years, adding 18 miles of protected lanes in 2016 and 45 miles over the last five years. According to the DOT, 89 percent of fatal bike collisions between 2006 and 2016 occurred on streets without bike lanes.