The New York Times Comes Correct… Almost

On Monday Streetsblog wrote that the New York Times had under-reported the number of New York City bicycle fatalities in 2005. A correction appeared in the Times today: 

A report in the Metro Briefing column last Friday about the death of a bike messenger in Manhattan misstated the number of bicyclists killed in traffic accidents in New York City in 2005. It was 21, not 12, according to the police. Page A2, August 18, 2006; Late Edition

Unfortunately, the correction is still incorrect. The New York City Department of Health counts 24 cyclists killed on the streets of New York City in 2005, not 21, not 12. Why the discrepency? "The NYPD stat only counts cyclists who died in crashes with moving vehicles," according to Noah Budnick at Transportation Alternatives. Cyclists who, say, crashed into parked cars or on a greenway are not counted by the police. Apparently, they are not counted by the New York Times either.

Now if we could just get the Newspaper of Record to stop using the word "accident" to describe every instance of motor vehicle death and destruction, we’d be making some real progress. How about a more neutral and objective term like "crash?"

  • jk

    The NY State DMV classifies bicyclists who are killed crashing into a stationary object as traffic fatalities — DMV computer forms include specific codes for this. Te DMV approach is logical and adheres to federal reporting norms.

    Thus, it is baffling that the NYPD (as reported by the esteemed Noah Budnick at TA)would exclude cyclist fatalities that do not involve moving motor vehicles from their total. The PD should be asked to include all cycling fatalities in their totals, as they do motor vehicle fatalities.

  • From: nytnews@nytimes.com
    Sent: Friday, August 18, 2006 2:01 PM
    To: Aaron Naparstek Subject:
    Re: two errors on your corrections page.

    Dear Mr. Naparstek: The Times ordinarily relies on the Police Department for statistics on traffic fatalities, and accepts the department’s definition of that term. I realize that the reporting standards of other city agencies, and private groups, may differ. For precisely that reason, the correction attributed the figure of 21 fatalities for 2005 to the police.

    I see no problem with the word "accident" to describe the majority of crashes, since, as you say, in most cases no one is to blame. If someone is charged with a crime — a hit and run, for example — we avoid calling it an "accident," although mistakes do occur from time to time. In this most recent case, the police determined that neither the cyclist nor the truck driver was at fault, and issued no tickets.

    Thank you for writing.

  • Right, just don’t run away from the scene and it’s usually an accident. Easiest way to kill someone and walk away from it without charges is sitting behind the wheel of an automobile.

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