Good News: New York City Cyclists Have All But Achieved Vision Zero

New York City bike riders are Vision Zero pioneers. Chart: DOT
New York City bike riders are Vision Zero pioneers. Chart: DOT

Yesterday the 104th Precinct, in Queens, tweeted a photo of officers giving a ticket to a cyclist. The precinct deleted the tweet when it triggered blowback from street safety advocates, but you can see it at the end of this post. “Bicyclists are no exception to Vision Zero,” it read. “Ride safe!”

If NYPD’s goal is encouraging cyclists to help prevent traffic deaths and serious injuries, we have good news: New Yorkers who ride bikes have all but achieved Vision Zero. In fact, cyclists were Vision Zero pros long before the initiative launched in NYC.

From 2000 to 2013 (the most recent year for which official bike crash data are available), cyclists killed eight New York City pedestrians, according to DOT. During that time frame, drivers killed 2,291 people walking. There were two reported incidents in which people on bikes struck and killed pedestrians in 2014, when DMV data show drivers killed 127 pedestrians.

All told, cyclists fatally struck 10 people in NYC in 14 years, compared to 2,418 pedestrians killed by drivers, making cyclists accountable for .4 percent of pedestrian deaths.

Police can devote all the resources they want to bike enforcement, but the best they can hope for is to reduce fatalities by less than one half of one percent. It makes no sense to frame bike tickets as “Vision Zero.”

So, congratulations New York City cyclists. You are not the reason hundreds of people lose their lives on NYC streets each year, and the city has the data to prove it. Now that that’s settled, NYPD can concentrate its Vision Zero efforts on dangerous driving, which is far and away the primary cause of traffic mayhem.

Image courtesy @BrooklynSpoke
Image via @BrooklynSpoke

(h/t Alex Knight)

  • Arno S.

    In the Netherlands, they don’t need an Idaho stop rule since they have almost no stop signs and more roundabouts than here.
    Also, bike traffic often has priority over motor vehicle traffic when crossing roads.

  • Joe R.

    And that’s exactly the way it should be. In general, you should use much the same criteria when laying out bike routes as you do with railways. Namely, you keep grades to a minimum, and you avoid full stops as much as possible.

  • Emilio Lopez

    Such low numbers of pedestrians killed by cyclists is in part because there are many more cars out there than bicycles. I do think police should lay off cyclists though and worry that someday the city might want to put license plates on bicycles to make ticketing easier. Don’t think for a moment that this won’t happen in the future. This was just for show and it was stupid to me but we know there also have been ticket blitzes before against cyclists. It’ll probably happen again as part of Vision Zero because of pedestrian complaints somewhere being used as an excuse. Pedestrians aren’t friends of anyone with wheels. Don’t forget that.

  • Doran Zeigler

    Many comments on this page measure the cost of enforcement of cyclists as being too much for too little. The greater question is, when a cyclist kills or injures a pedestrian, what is the recourse for the pedestrian? Most cyclists do not have insurance, so who should bear the cost of the pedestrian’s medical costs or loss of life when it does happen.

    I’ll answer my own question, the victims are stuck and must bear the costs. This is patently unfair. Why should cyclists not be responsible? I know of someone who incurred $30,000 in medical bills, was unable to work for more than six months, and lost their apartment. This was all because a cyclist blew a red light and who was not even ticketed.
    What is fair about this scenario? Does society consider bicycles as toys? A 150 pound person traveling at 20 miles per hour can generate a force of 5000 pound. Why is this type of danger overlooked and chalked up to an “accident” when there is clearly negligence involved.

    The city is negligent in their enforcement of bicycle regulations and of their responsibility in addressing the problem of pedestrian/cyclist accidents. When a person has no recourse for relief under the law, it is a violation of their basic rights.

    New York City’s Department of Transportation recorded 309 crashes between bicyclists and pedestrians in 2013. Under Bloomberg over 11,400 summonses were issued in 2013. Under di Blasio, tickets issued were 3,200 and there were more bikers on the roads than under Bloomberg. Clearly, the present mayor is negligent in enforcing the traffic laws while putting more pedestrians at risk.

  • Cynara2

    Does this actually make sense to you? Scary.

  • David

    Doran, for each of your stories of cyclist negligence, I could cite 5 pedestrian negligence stories. In fact, a number of years ago, I was cycling in Central Park and a pedestrian ran out in front of me completely oblivious to me. I ended up with a few broken bones and a bunch of medical bills. By your logic, I should be clammering to have all pedestrians licensed to walk the streets. Alas, I haven’t ever suggested that.

  • Con

    The elephant in the room here is your heath system (or no system as it is). Say you are correct about that one person how about sharing info on the other thousands of mva as well? Cat got your tongue? Arnt individuals suppose to have their own “insurance” in your perfect world.