NYC Bicycle Fatalities Are On The Rise

Helmet and bicycle on pedestrian crossing after traffic accident

NYC Bicycle Fatalities Are On The Rise

Another New York City cyclist was killed this week after being hit by a cement truck in Brooklyn. According to News12, the 28-year-old cyclist was traveling down Bushwick Avenue and Boerum Street. A video shows the cyclist attempted to swerve away from the cement truck but was unable to avoid the fatal crash.

This recent incident marks the 15th cyclist to die on New York City streets this year, and the third cyclist in just over a week. Mayor Bill de Blasio classified the recent uptick in fatal bicycle accidents as a public ‘emergency,’ according to the New York Post. De Blasio has since instructed the NYPD to crack down on reckless drivers who put cyclists’ lives at risk, and charged the Department of Transportation with the task of developing new ways to keep bicycle riders safe on the road.

Why Bicycle Accidents Continue to Happen

Year-to-date comparisons show New York City cyclist fatalities have doubled within the last year. The concerning uptick in bicycle accidents citywide was first noticed back in February. Nineteen people (cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists) were killed and at least 191 cyclists were reported injured within the first 28 days of 2019. Streets Blog  reported cyclist injuries were up in all boroughs by at least 10 percent (except for Manhattan South), and some areas saw an increase as high as 233 percent. The blog nicknamed the month ‘Bloody January’.

Bicycle accidents in New York City can happen for several reasons:

  • Dangerous Intersections: Vision Zero reports show 89 percent of fatal bicycle accidents in New York City occur at intersections. Between cyclists who become caught in the blind spots of cars, vehicles turning without signaling, and drivers failing to look before they turn, bicycle accidents have skyrocketed.
  • Lack of protected bike lanes: Protected bike lanes are the bike routes on city streets with physical barriers separating cyclists from cars. In December 2018, NYC officials claimed to have installed 20.9 miles of protected bike lanes. It was later found that only about 16 miles of these bike lanes were classified as ‘protected.’ The remainder of the lanes were marked but given no physical barriers. Unprotected bike lanes can put cyclists at risk of accidents by even the slightest swerve of a car. Several neighborhoods citywide lack protected bike lanes. Improvised areas tend to have the least number of protected bike lanes, even though bike riding in these neighborhoods can be more frequent.
  • Cars parked in bike lanes: Without barriers keeping vehicles out, cars often view designated bike lanes as optional parking spots. When cars park in the bike lanes, cyclists are forced to enter fast moving traffic to maneuver around them. If a car is not paying attention or going slow enough to avoid hitting cyclists in the road, fatal accidents can occur.
  • Speeding: It only takes one speeding car to take a life. Back in November 2014, New York City speed limits changed to 25 mph as apart of the Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic accidents. Speed cameras have shown significant progress in reducing accidents in school zones, but some drivers still insist on speeding. Cars that are going too fast can miss a cyclist when turning or hit a cyclist who enters the road before the driver has time to stop. The faster a car is going when it strikes a person, the more significant the impact and injuries will be.
  • Distracted drivers: Distractions cause drivers to take their eyes off the road. When motorists are focusing on other things in or outside of their vehicle, they can easily miss a cyclist on the road. According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, distracted drivers in New York City were responsible for 19.1 percent of all vehicle accidents and 10.4 percent of fatal vehicle accidents back in 2014. Drivers who are on their phones, talking to passengers, or looking out the window can miss a cyclist turning or entering the road.
  • Too many bikes, too soon: Hundreds of bike-sharing programs have popped up around New York City, but the streets are not set up to accommodate them. The city has encouraged the use of bikes and increased the number of cyclists seemingly overnight without increasing safety measures.

Bike Safety Worldwide

Since 1990, cycling in New York City has increased by around 320 percent, according to the NYC Department of Transportation. Though more cyclists on the road is a suspected variable for increased accidents, more bikes does not necessarily equal more crashes.

When comparing countries around the world, larger cities with higher rates of daily cyclists have fewer injuries and fatalities to report. A BBC article reports more than half of the population in Denmark rides bicycles on a daily basis. Surprisingly, their fatality rate is four times less than the United States based on how they have incorporated cycling into their culture.

So where is New York City going wrong? According to the BBC, these are some of the steps bike-friendly countries are taking to keep riders safe:

Street Design

Bike-friendly cities design their streets in favor of bicycles and cars sharing the road. Most major cities in America are designed predominantly for cars. Speed limits, designated lanes and pedestrian walkways all affect how motor vehicles should efficiently move through city streets. Cyclists are not seen as equal modes of transportation.

Bike Lanes

Cities with safe bike lanes place barriers to keep cars from entering protected lanes. Barriers can include trees, gates, concrete, or metal guardrails to protect cyclists when riding. Several American cities who do go through with installing bike lanes are designing them poorly. Not only are they missing protective barriers, but they are also made too narrow, giving cyclists little room for error or to ride along side a companion.

Bike Networks

Countries with an enormous number of bikers have gone as far as creating separate bike networks in addition to bike lanes. In the Netherlands, hundreds of bike paths intertwine throughout the city. At least 27 percent of the population rides bikes daily and their cyclist fatality rates are some of the lowest in the world.

Separate Signals

Some countries have created separate traffic signals for cyclists, granting them priority to cross in front of oncoming traffic. Copenhagen cyclists are given a green light almost immediately when they hit an intersection, with provided foot rests if they do have to wait at a red signal.

Lack of Helmets

A huge concern with bike sharing is that cyclists are putting themselves at a higher risk for injuries by not coming prepared with a helmet. In Sweden, a company has designed an inflatable helmets to be worn around the neck to encourage riders to carry their own protection to reduce the number of fatal and severe head injuries in the case of a crash.

Keeping NYC Cyclists Safe

Cyclists in New York City cannot predict what cars will do on the road. To help reduce the risk of injuries, cyclists must prepare for safety every time they take a ride. BikeRentNYC provides the following safety recommendations to help cyclists bike safer in the city:

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Avoid riding in a drivers’ blind spot.
  • Ride defensively.
  • Never assume a car sees you.
  • Try to make eye contact with the driver when riding through intersections.
  • Obey the traffic laws so drivers can predict your movements.
  • Yield to pedestrians.
  • Leave extra room for riding around trucks, buses, and parked cars.
  • Use hand signals when turning.
  • Ride with traffic, not against it.
  • Use marked bike lanes when available.
  • Stay off expressways.
  • Do not weave in and out of traffic.
  • Ride sober- always.
  • Use a bell, reflectors, and horn.
  • When riding in the dark, use front and rear lights, and reflective gear.

For more tips on cyclist safety and bike laws in New York City, click here for more information.

New York City Bicycle Accident Attorneys

As safety advocates for cyclists across New York City, the law firm of Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe & Fein is here to support you after an accident. Cyclists deserve safe streets to ride. No matter how busy the streets are, bicycle accidents caused by driver negligence are unacceptable.

If you or a loved one has sustained a bicycle injury after a traffic accident, our knowledgeable team of accident attorneys is here to help. Contact us using our convenient online form or feel free to phone us in New York at 212-227-1212, or in Huntington/Long Island at 631-864-2429.


“15th cyclist death in NYC prompts mayor to ask for changes.” News12 Brooklyn. (Retrieved July 2, 2019)

Meyer, David. “De Blasio vows to protect cyclists after 15th death this year.” New York Post.(Retrieved July 2, 2019)

Kuntzman, Gersh. “Bloody January: Cyclist Injuries and Fatalities Soared Last Month.”StreetsBlog NYC.(Retrieved July 2, 2019)

“Bike Smart.” Vision Zero NYC.(Retrieved July 2, 2019)

Kuntzman, Gersh. “FACT CHECK: City Did Not Build 20.9 Miles of ‘Protected’ Bike Lanes This Year.” StreetsBlog NYC.(Retrieved July 2, 2019)

Abraham, Dave “Paco”. “Op-Ed: Communities of Color Need Protected Lanes, Too!”StreetsBlog NYC. (Retrieved July 2, 2019)

“Speeding & Speed Limits.” Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee.(Retrieved July 2, 2019)

“2014 Statewide Statistical Summary.” New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. (Retrieved July 2, 2019)

“Cycling In The City.” NYC Gov.(Retrieved July 2, 2019)

Moskvitch, Katia. “How to get a cycling city.” BBC.(Retrieved July 2, 2019)

“NYC Biking Rules.” BikeRent.NYC(Retrieved July 2, 2019)