Cyclist Injuries Continue to Fall, Even as More New Yorkers Ride

Bike_Crashes_3.jpgCyclist injuries and fatalities continue to drop in New York City while riding increases dramatically. Source: Transportation Alternatives

New York City’s streets are safer than ever for cyclists, according to new information gathered by Transportation Alternatives. Injury and fatality data from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles show a continued decline in the number of cyclist injuries in 2009, a particularly encouraging trend considering how many more cyclists are on the road every year. 

While thousands of cyclists are injured annually in traffic crashes, the safety trend is unmistakable. Last year, 2,730 cyclists were injured and 12 were killed in traffic crashes in New York City. That’s down from 2,916 injuries and 26 deaths in 2008. Cyclist injuries have dropped every year but three since 1998, when there were 5,205. Cyclist fatalities don’t show any real pattern over the same period. 

These safety gains are even more dramatic when viewed against the backdrop of increased cycling. We may not know exactly how many New Yorkers are riding their bikes, but it’s clear that the numbers are way up. The city Department of Transportation’s screenline counts estimate that the number of cyclists commuting to the Manhattan core tripled between 2000 and 2009. Census data show that around 1.7 times as many New Yorkers identified as bike commuters in 2008 as in 2000. The real citywide increase is probably somewhere in between the two. In either case, however, it’s clear that the injury rate is way down, and that biking in New York today is much safer than it was a decade ago. 

It’s another year’s worth of evidence supporting the "safety in numbers" effect, the theory popularized by researcher Peter Jacobsen which states that cyclist and pedestrian safety rises as more people walk and bike on the streets. 

  • BicyclesOnly

    Every additional cyclist on the streets makes us more visible and safe, and more influential in the political process. Get a friend or coworker on a bike during Bike Month!

  • Sean

    I’m happy to learn about this reduction in the number of injuries and fatalities, but I am also surprised. I commute to work by bicycle and it’s rare for me to travel more than a few blocks without encountering a bicyclist doing something foolish: running a red light, riding against traffic, riding at night without lights.

    I find this behavior infuriating because it reduces safety not only at that moment, but in the long term as well by eroding public support for better bike infrastructure and giving drivers ample encouragement to behave badly themselves.

    I wish riders would realize that the 30 seconds saved here and there by running a light or riding upstream is far less valuable than someone’s good health and having a public that likes you.

  • David

    Bicycles are traffic too.

    We are growing in numbers.

    Very Cool.

  • Mark

    I agree with Sean that we as bicyclists (and pedestrians and drivers too) need to think about our image. I’m building a website to try and up-our-game with a focus on ending road rage: civilstreets.org

  • zach

    I’d love more discussion of lights here. I imagine using lights improves cyclist safety more than wearing helmets, more than being sober, maybe more than following the law.

    To my chagrin I found myself driving a car in the city yesterday. It’s very hard to see cyclists without lights.

    White on the front, red on the back, every time.

  • zach

    I was driving last night that is. Daytime running lights might be a good idea, but I’m talking about after dusk.

  • David

    I agree with Zach. My velomobile came with Inoled Extreme front light built into the nose along with a tail light, brake light, turn signals and falshers.

    I added two pair of AY UP lights to the front for an additional 800 Lumens and an AY UP red flashing light off the back. I run the AY UPs night and day.

    You cannot be bright enough when out and about on (or in) a bicycle.

    There are so many cyclists out there at night with out lights, reflective gear and for what ever reason wearing dark clothing.