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Cyclists Injuries Soaring in The Bronx — An Area With Few Protected Lanes

2:17 PM EDT on April 27, 2020

There is virtually no on-street protected lanes (green lines) in a key portion of the Bronx. Most bike lanes are mere painted lanes (blue) or sharrows (purple).

Injuries to Bronx cyclists are up nearly 30 percent this year despite massive reductions in car traffic since the beginning of the state's coronavirus lockdown — the only alarming traffic crash statistic in the NYPD's latest TrafficStat update.

Citywide, cyclist injuries are down nearly 12 percent between Jan. 1 and April 19 compared to the same period last year. In areas of the city with good bike infrastructure, injuries are down by far greater percentages. In Manhattan below 59th Street, for example, cyclist injuries are down 35 percent so far this year. In Brooklyn North, they're down 15 percent.

But The Bronx is going in the wrong direction.

The numbers for the borough are particularly concerning given that there were 94 cyclists injured in crashes in the first three months of this year, up from 58 over the same period last year, an increase of 62 percent — and that's before the COVID-19 crisis fully kicked in.

Injuries plunged to eight so far in April, down from 22 cyclists over the same period last year. But that good news is actually bad news: If last year's rate of injuries had held this year, injuries to cyclists would be up 100 percent from last year. (Some of the "increase" may be a statistical glitch because the NYPD's cyclist injury numbers for 2019 do not include e-bike riders, but the ones for 2020 do.)

Plotted on an NYPD map, the injuries are clearly clustered.
Plotted on an NYPD map, the injuries are clearly clustered in a few hotspots.

Bronx cycling activists have long called for more protected bike infrastructure in a borough with very few safe routes, despite a high population of working cyclists and the coming Citi Bike expansion to the borough later this year.

That expansion is centered around the four Bronx precincts that comprise a majority of this year's injuries: the 40th in the South Bronx (16 injuries), the 44th (around Yankee Stadium) and 52nd just to the northeast of that (13 each) and the 43rd in Soundview (12).

"DOT has underinvested in protected bike lane infrastructure in the Bronx for years, so there is nothing to protect cyclists from the increasingly reckless driving," said Bronx cycling advocate John Halpin.

Halpin, who lives near Yankee Stadium, said he has seen less car traffic during the pandemic, but more recklessness.

"There has been more speeding — Jerome Avenue by the stadium is terrible — and I've also noticed drivers acting more recklessly," he said. "I've also seen a lot of right turns on red. It's like the rules of the road no longer apply. It's not surprising more cyclists have been injured."

"The DOT needs to get serious about investing in Bronx infrastructure — to bring us to parity with the other boroughs," he concluded.

It's not clear what will happen, post-pandemic, but even before the COVID-19 crisis shut down so many of DOT's essential operations, the agency was likely to give The Bronx the short shrift with bike infrastructure improvements. The city had committed to building 30 miles of protected bike lanes for 2020, but one-third were planned for Manhattan and another 10 were slated for Brooklyn — leaving a majority of the city to divide up just 10 more miles.

"It's clear that the DOT prioritizes wealthier areas at the expense of everyone else," Halpin said. "That's hardly appropriate for 'the fairest big city in America.'"

Total cycling injuries were down last year in The Bronx as compared to prior years, with 424 people injured in 2019, down from 445 the year before and 451 in 2017.

This is what Bronx cyclists have to deal with even more than cyclists in other areas. Photo: John Halpin
This is what Bronx cyclists have to deal with even more than cyclists in other areas. This shot was taken on E. 165th Street, between Grand Concourse and Sheridan Avenue. Photo: John Halpin

The DOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. We will obviously update it if we hear back.

Update: An earlier version of this story cited the wrong citywide injury numbers from the NYPD. Streetsblog has updated the story and apologizes for the error (which did not, however, alter the essential takeaway of the story regarding safety in The Bronx).

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