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.