An analysis of data collected by the NYPD shows the success of several recent bicycle safety measures.
The study, performed by Council Ben Kallos’ office, looked at the NYPD’s “Details of Motor Vehicle Collisions in New York City” data from July 2012 to September 2016 for the 17th and 19th precincts.
Kallos and Council Member Daniel Garodnick, whose districts include these precincts, have led a push for greater bike safety and education programs in response to continuing concerns from residents between E. 26th and 96th Streets.
As of the beginning of last month, there have been seven pedestrian deaths in both vehicle and bike collisions on the Upper East Side. Just this weekend a pedestrian was struck in a hit-and-run with a bike at the intersection of E. 70th Street and First Avenue.
But according to Kallos’ report, action is being taken. The study says the number of collisions involving cyclists has dropped from 373 in 2015 to 263 so far this year. While 538 pedestrians were injured in collisions -- with both bikes and vehicles – in 2015, only 328 have been injured at this point in 2016. The NYPD data shows that summonses issued to cyclists increased drastically from 200 handed out by the 19th precinct last year to 1,865 this year, and 70 motorized e-bikes have been seized.
“Pedestrians don’t feel safe from bicycles and motor vehicles, bicyclists don’t feel safe from motor vehicles, and drivers complain about both pedestrians and bicyclists who aren’t paying attention or disobey lights,” Kallos said. In response, bike safety classes for restaurant delivery people and free bike equipment giveaways are just a few of the programs being offered to educate those on the streets.
Over the last year, the debate over bikes and bike lanes has been particularly passionate on the Upper East Side. Community Board 8 spent more than six months in talks with residents and the Department of Transportation (DOT) about crosstown bike lanes, which the DOT eventually installed without the board’s approval.
At numerous meetings held at both community boards and precinct community councils, concerns about bikes abound. Some residents seem not to be aware of NYPD efforts for increased enforcement.
Despite the recent push, Judith Toby, an Upper East Sider, said she has never seen a police officer issuing a summons to a cyclist. “Many cyclists ignore traffic signals, run red lights, don’t wear helmets, travel southbound rather than northbound on First Avenue and don’t understand spoken English,” she said.
Nick Viest, president of the 19th precinct’s community council, said these were some of the most common quality-of-life issues raised and called issuing summonses “a high priority” for the NYPD.
“We need more help from city government,” Viest said in an email. “There needs to be more information regarding bike safety practices [like] TV and internet ads and subway ads.”
Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, was hesitant to interpret the NYPD’s data the same way.
“We lowered the speed limit to 25 m.p.h. in 2015, and I think that’s been a very impactful safety improvement,” he said. White added that, though he isn’t sure why, the Upper East Side has been a more contentious, anti-cycling neighborhood than most, though he suggested that perhaps the area is “more sensitive to disorder” than others.
He also pointed out the four pedestrians who have been killed so far this year, not by bikes but by vehicles.
“I don’t want to belittle the problem of scofflaw bicyclists,” he said. “They’re certainly something that we’re working to address, but we try to keep that problem in perspective.”
Kallos emphasized that concrete progress has been made due to measurable increases in education and enforcement. “We’ve worked with residents to identify dangerous intersections, and we’ve shared that with DOT and NYPD, who in turn have created a Manhattan Pedestrian Safety Plan that included many of our suggestions,” Kallos said.