Now That Citi Bike Is Live, Will All Cyclist Injuries Be Newsworthy?

Now that Citi Bike is live, the media are apparently paying close attention to traffic crashes that injure cyclists. So long as the cyclist is on a Citi Bike.

Both the Post and the Associated Press picked up the story of a cyclist who was hurt in a collision at Houston and MacDougal yesterday afternoon. NYPD says the cyclist ran a light and was struck by the driver of a livery SUV. The AP reports that the victim was thrown into the windshield and was hospitalized with “non-life-threatening” injuries.

Here’s the AP’s lede:

A rider has been struck by a SUV just three days after officials launched the nation’s largest bike-sharing program.

In a typical 72-hour stretch, dozens of cyclists are injured by motorists in NYC. In April alone, 288 cyclists and 904 pedestrians were injured by drivers, and 3,217 motor vehicle occupants were involved in collisions that were serious enough to cause injury. These crashes don’t make national news, and coverage in the local media is sporadic at best.

Nor are details offered pertaining to vehicle speed in this crash, which could have affected whether a collision occurred and was definitely a factor in the severity of the cyclist’s injuries. The AP does say that hundreds of cyclists are seriously hurt in NYC every year, but considering the context this factoid is offered only to sensationalize. There is no mention of engineering or enforcement improvements that could make streets safer.

In fact, there’s no attention-grabbing detail to this story — no gore, no famous people, nothing — except for the fact that the cyclist was riding a Citi Bike. The Post and the AP don’t even agree on the gender of the victim. But what difference does that make as long as they can make bike-share seem dangerous.

  • Anonymous

    This hysteria around citibike including the fascination with injuries will die down. Soon enough the press will be ignoring cyclist injuries as usual. In the mean time this guy took a chance on making a light and got burned.

  • Anonymous

    “The Post and the AP don’t even agree on the gender of the victim.”

    This was the funniest part.

  • Anonymous

    Assuming the NYPD is correct. How would they know that the guy was actually jumping a red light or not, other than the driver’s testimony?

  • As we all know, Citibikes are slow, and this crash occurred in a large, wide intersection on Houston Street. A cyclist can lawfully enter an intersection as long as the light is yellow at the stop bar or the crosswalk preceding the intersection. If this cyclist was proceeding slowly, s/he might not have made it all the way across Houston on MacDougal before the light turned green for intersecting traffic. Under those circumstances, the driver queued at the light on Houston has no right to gun it on green and hit the cyclist before s/he clears the intersection. Rather, the driver has a duty to use due care to avoid injuring a cyclist (VTL 1146).

    This analysis is totally consistent with all the facts of the crash that I have seen reported, unless you want to count the self-serving characterization of the driver that the cyclist was trying to “beat the light” as a “fact.”

  • Daphna

    I was going to say the same thing as Steve. All vehicles (including bikes) are supposed to proceed through an intersection if they passed the stop bar or the crosswalk (when there is no stop bar) while the light was still green or yellow. This is the lawful way. The vehicle is supposed to proceed through the intersection and has the right of way to proceed if they entered the intersection prior to the red. If traffic in the opposite direction gets the green they are supposed to “go, but yield the right-of-way to other traffic at the intersection as required by law”. Green does not just mean “GO!!!!”.

    “right-of-way rules:
    A driver approaching an intersection must yield the right-of-way to traffic already lawfully using the intersection.”

    Another “right-of-way rule:
    Drivers must yield to pedestrians legally using marked or unmarked crosswalks, slowing down or stopping if need be to yield.
    Example: You are stopped at a red light. A pedestrian steps into the crosswalk, and then the light turns green. You must wait for the pedestrian to cross. You must also yield to pedestrians in crosswalks on your left or right before turning.”

  • Stacy Walsh Rosenstock

    I should also add that apparently the driver was accelerating towards a particularly dangerous intersection, at Houston and Sixth, where drivers turn one of three possible ways. Had he been driving carefully he should’ve proceeded slowly even if there was no cyclist entering the intersection.

  • Joe R.

    If the rider was “thrown into the windshield” then they were evidently within the SUV driver’s field of view. Moreover, if the cyclist had really run a red as claimed, then how did they manage to get a good way across a busy street before finally colliding with cross traffic? I would think they would have had a collision once they crossed the first traffic lane. Therefore, it appears as others have said that the cyclist entered the intersection on the green, and just wasn’t going fast enough to get to the other side. Going on that assumption, the SUV driver would have been stopped until the light changed. If the cyclist hit the windshield, then this means the cyclist was in front or nearly in front of the SUV when it started moving. Why did the driver go when his path was obstructed by a bike which must have been clearly visible? Whether or not he had a green light is immaterial. You can only go on a green light if you can safely reach the other side of the intersection. If a bike was in the way this obviously was not the case, and the driver should have waited. He should be cited for that.

  • Clarke

    Any thought to replacing green lights with flashing yellows in Manhattan? Might psychologically calm the “green means go” mentality. And in the city, I take green to mean more of a “it’s your turn, proceed with caution,” which a yellow would better indicate.

  • david

    I think it’s news because citi bike riders are perceived as newbie bike riders. Some may be.

  • Joe R.

    Honestly, I feel it’s better to just get rid of all traffic controls and let everyone negotiate with everyone else at intersections. That will naturally drop maximum travel speeds to 20 mph or less most times of the day because going any faster will risk collisions. The traffic signals aren’t there for safety, but to regulate traffic flow. Even in that regard, they’re not particularly successful.

  • This is an issue in Chicago: One will enter the intersection while biking with a green light, be in the intersection for the entire yellow phase, be in the intersection when it turns red, and STILL be in the intersection when the cross direction gets a green!

  • Stacy Walsh Rosenstock

    It’s only in the past 20 years or so that DOT has installed traffic lights in the Village south of Washington Square Park. As a pedestrian, cyclist, and former driver, I’ve always felt everyone was more careful crossing streets before traffic controls were installed. When riding through the West Village, particularly along Bedford Street, where there are almost no traffic lights, I’m always amazed by how much more careful and considerate drivers tend to be.

    Unfortunately with so many lanes of traffic, going in both directions, yellow lights, or no lights at all, really aren’t viable options on Houston Street, where this occurred.

  • mjl2142

    I’ve seen that done in places in Boston, and the effect is terrible. While yes, it does make people hesitate when the light turns green when initially installed, the long term effect is to desensitize drivers in the area to flashing yellow lights as just another form of green.
    And people who aren’t familiar with the area aren’t expecting the light to ever turn red, so the reaction is just confusion when that happens.

  • Anonymous

    Yes because it is so hard to believe that a cyclist would ever run a red light. Actually the very idea that a cyclist could ever do anything wrong is unthinkable.

  • Driver

    They could have asked the cyclist.

  • mike

    The driver was probably staring at a phone before hitting the gas as well; if the Citibike was going slowly, which must be the case given the unwieldiness of it, how could they be unnoticed unless the driver wasn’t paying attention?

    I say this as a regular commuter—from the higher perch in the bike seat, you can easily see how many drivers multitask with a phone.

  • Alex Marshall

    The rider who got hit was a colleague of mine at Regional Plan Association, which is ironic, given that RPA has been a big supporter of the bike share plan. She (yes she’s a woman) may eventually write something about the experience herself. But I’ll say this, based on talking with her. One, she said the light was yellow, not red. Two, she said the driver who hit her, who was at the wheel of a livery cab, had jumped the green light. She has evidence for this because after the accident, the driver of a car in an adjacent lane stopped and yelled at the driver who had hit her, “if you hadn’t been racing to beat me you wouldn’t have hit her.” The fault for this accident appears to lie where it usually does, with the driver. If we are ever to make cycling and walking much, much safer, we must principally look at the conduct of the people driving the big, huge, heavy machines.

  • Sean Kelliher

    This is a problem in New York too and, as a bicyclist, it puts you in an awkward situation. The light turns yellow; you’re midway into the intersection; too far in to stop; but without enough time to make it to the other side at a comfortable pace. You speed up to get through the intersection, but then must quickly slow down right before the crosswalk to not frighten the pedestrians who are beginning to cross.

  • It’s a problem everywhere. Lights are timed for motor vehicles moving at the speed limit and everything else just has to make do. And drivers are impatient and aggressive everywhere as well. Some individual drivers are not, but the aggregate is aggressive.

  • Does the light turn steady yellow before it turns red? I think Clarke’s intended meaning is to completely eliminate the green-yellow-red cycle, turning a street effectively into a stop sign, with flashing-yellow one way indicating no sign, and flashing-red the other way indicating stop sign. For streets that already have lights, this is essentially a way to go back to just the stop sign which is easier to reverse.

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