New York Times Under-Reports Cyclist Fatalities

The New York Times printed an error in the news brief reporting the death of Darren Lewis, the 20-year-old bike messenger killed by a truck in Midtown on Thursday. The Times reported that twelve cyclists were killed in New York City last year. According to the NYPD, 24 cyclists were killed on the city’s streets in 2005, twice as many as the Times claims.

  • I complained to the NY Times and they responded, claiming that the NYPD verified the 12 figure yesterday…
    what gives? Where can I get the real number?

  • Jason, You might want to get in touch with Noah Budnick at Transportation Alternatives ( and let him know about your conversations with the Times and/or the NYPD. The NYPD, DOT, and Dept of Health are all well aware of the correct cyclist fatality numbers for 2005 and the number was, sadly, not as low as 12. It was twice that.

  • Here’s one story from Jan ’06 before the fatality number was revised higher:

    Bicycle fatalities
    rose 40% in ’05


    The city’s streets got meaner last year for bicycle riders, who were killed at a rate of nearly two a month in deadly collisions.

    Traffic accidents claimed the lives of 21 bicyclists – up from 15 in 2004 – a 40% rise, police statistics show. There were 16 fatalities in 2003.

    “The increase in bicyclists killed last year is of great concern to us and we’re working with the Police Department and advocacy groups to initiate a bicycle safety outreach campaign,” Transportation Department spokeswoman Kay Sarlin said.

    All too often, drivers don’t watch out for bicyclists, Noah Budnick of Transportation Alternatives said. He called for a police crackdown on reckless driving.

    But the police don’t believe there is a grim upward trend taking place. The number of such fatalities tend to fluctuate year to year, Deputy Inspector Michael Coan said, pointing out that 35 cyclists were killed in 1999.

    The increased popularity of cycling may be playing a role in the higher death toll. Transportation Alternatives estimates that 120,000 people cycle each day in the city, which the group believes is an all-time high.

    The city Health and Transportation departments are studying biker fatalities, hoping to better understand contributing factors, such as speeding and failure to wear helmets, Sarlin said.

    The city also will continue to increase safety by measures that include establishing bicycling routes with protective barriers, Sarlin said.

    There were 312 traffic fatalities last year. That number encompasses drivers, passengers and pedestrians, in addition to bicyclists, and reflects a 5% increase over 2004.

    But traffic fatalities had declined steadily for more than a decade and the 2005 tally was the second-lowest since 1910.

    Originally published on January 13, 2006

  • There is DOT document here:

    it claims that there were 21 deaths in 2005…
    I am still looking for an ‘official’ 24 to use.

    However, I have responded to the NYTimes with the above DOT document and DailyNews article, and I am waiting to hear back from Noah at Transalt.

  • ck_bk

    add one more to this years total: John Neese, a bike messenger, was hit last wednesday night and passed away as a result of his injuries on saturday morning. The accident happened in williamsburg, near the bicycle/pedestrian access ramp, and the reports say that the driver was speeding and possible driving under the influence. John was a warm and funny guy and i know that he’s in a better place. Rest in peace, John.


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