Riding a bike in New York City can be a refreshing and scenic way to get around the Big Apple. It can save money and time, allowing commuters to bypass delayed subways and zip past crowded city streets, and it is far better for the environment than many other transit options. Bicycling has also been found to be good for your body and heart health—but unfortunately, in New York City, it also carries risks for your safety.
Surveys show that on average, 53% of New Yorkers who are physically able to do so ride a bike at least several times a month. And yet, due to busy streets, distracted drivers, unwary pedestrians, and many other factors, New York City can be a dangerous place to ride a bike. In 2020 alone there were 12,450 bike crashes reported in New York City. Of those accidents, 12,422 caused injuries, 28 of which were fatal.
Risks of Bike Ridership in New York City
Whether you ride a bike for pleasure or as part of your daily commute, there are certain risks to be aware of. Some of the top causes of bicycle accidents in New York City are:
- Intersections: Turning drivers may be unaware of bicyclists or have less visibility, making intersections one of the riskiest areas for the road for bicyclists.
- Bike lane obstructions: Delivery trucks, moving companies, and others may often illegally obstruct bike lanes. In New York City, no person may stop, stand, or park a vehicle in any designated bike lane, unless they are entering or leaving a driveway, pulling in or out of a legal parking space, complying with law enforcement directives, avoiding roadway obstacles, or crossing an intersection. Bike lanes are meant to protect bicyclists, and should also not be used by pedestrians.
- “Doorings“: When riding next to parked cars, the sudden opening or closing of a car door can be disastrous for a bicyclist. Drivers are obligated to look carefully for cyclists before opening car doors, especially when the door opens into a bike lane. Failing to do so and causing an accident is often a clear example of negligence on the part of the motorist.
The Benefits of Dedicated Bike Lanes in New York City
There is good news on the horizon about bike safety in the city, however. According to a new study from the Department of Transportation, implementing bike safety lanes on the streets has already begun to reduce New York City cyclist injury risk by 32%.
According to the study, the style of bike lane can make a difference in how well it protects cyclists, as well as where it is located. Adding protected, separated bike lanes on some of the most highly congested streets can protect cyclists most efficiently, reducing the risk of injury by more than 60%. Even adding shared bike lanes, which are fully integrated with the flow of traffic, can still reduce the risk of injury by 18%, the study finds. And finally, on low-volume quiet streets, a step as simple as demarcating shared bike lanes can reduce the risk of injury by a whopping 42%.
Taking these important measures has also encouraged more New Yorkers to ride bikes more regularly. In areas where bike lanes have been added, ridership has increased by up to 50%. These changes come on the heels of an overall bicycle boom that the city has experienced over the past year. More people riding bikes means fewer cars on the streets, cleaner air, and hopefully healthier New Yorkers.
General Bike Safety Tips in New York City
- Wear a helmet: If you are a cyclist in New York City, the best way to protect yourself in case of an injury is to wear a helmet. Bike riders 14 and under are required to wear a helmet by law. The city provides free helmets to New Yorkers, as well as fittings to ensure that they are the right size to protect you in case of an accident.
- Use signals: When sharing the road, it is important to clearly signal your intentions to drivers as well as pedestrians. Use hand signals to indicate upcoming turns, and avoid weaving in between cars.
- Be visible: Especially when biking at night or during times of low visibility, like dawn or dusk, wearing bright colors and using bicycle lights can help make you more visible on the road.
- Keep your bike maintained: Regular bicycle maintenance can ensure that important features like brakes and gears are working properly. When using bike-sharing programs, be sure to report bikes that are not working so that they can be repaired in a timely manner.
What to Do if You Are Ever Injured in a Bike Accident in New York City
In many cases, if you have been injured by a car, truck, or motorcycle while bicycling, you may qualify to file a lawsuit against the driver of the vehicle. If the driver caused the accident due to their negligence, you may be able to receive financial compensation. If you were “doored,” or riding in a protected bike lane, the driver may have been especially negligent in not having seen you and your bicycle.
The expert New York City personal injury attorneys at Shulman & Hill can help pinpoint the cause or causes of your accident, identify the potentially negligent parties, and clarify the fullest extent of legal remedies at your disposal. Shulman & Hill is New York’s pre-eminent personal injury law firm, with attorneys who specialize in bike accident law and help injured New Yorkers seek fair compensation for their losses.
While a bike accident can be a difficult and dangerous thing to have happened to you, enlisting an experienced attorney may help alleviate the financial burden that may ensue after an injury. Compensation may cover your medical bills, loss of earnings if you are unable to work after your injuries, and the pain and suffering you may have undergone. If you or a loved one has been injured in a bike accident, contact Shulman & Hill for a free legal consultation to learn more about your options.