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Crunching the Data on the Record-Setting Year For Cyclist Deaths

Ninety-four percent of the year's record-setting number of bike deaths occurred on streets without protected bike lanes.

12:01 AM EDT on October 17, 2023

Caroline Rubinstein-Willis/Mayoral Photography Office|

The mayor’s photo ops are not living up to reality, according to a new report.

Traffic crashes in New York City killed more cyclists through the first nine months of 2023 than all but one other year on record — and 94 percent of the victims were killed on street without protected bike lanes, according to a new report from Transportation Alternatives that places responsibility for the crisis squarely on Mayor Adams.

“Mayor Adams has the tools to end traffic violence and yet he continues to put politics over people," Danny Harris, the group's executive director, said in a statement, nodding to the Adams administration's high profile waffling in recent months over several street safety redesign projects.

The 25 bike deaths through the end of September — plus one more since — put the city on track to have more cyclist fatalities that any year since 1999, Transportation Alternatives said.

Overall, Adams's first two years in office marked the deadliest first two years for cyclists than any mayor dating back to Ed Koch, the report said.

Mayor Adams has faced a particularly bloody two years for cyclists since he took office.

October's one cycling victim so far — 56-year-old Emanuel Patterson — also died while biking on a street without a protected bike lane.

The mayor touted his commitment to bike lanes and other street changes to a press conference last week, with the caveat that the process "can't move at such a fast pace that we're leaving communities behind."

Adams's record as mayor has so for failed to live up to his campaign promise to add 75 miles of new protected bike lanes annually over his four-year term. His administration hasn't even met more modest benchmarks set in the City Council-mandated "NYC Streets Plan," as Streetsblog has reported: DOT installed just 26.3 miles of protected lanes in 2022, compared to the street plan's 30-mile benchmark. This year, the law requires 50 miles of protected bike lanes, another target from which Adams is very far.

A full tally of this year's protected bike lane mileage won't be clear until the end of the year, but a tracker from Transportation Alternatives shows he's only about one-quarter of the way towards the annual total.

Bike advocates grew frustrated with Adams this year as his administration waffled and then scaled back several redesign projects. City Hall ordered DOT to delay then modify bike lane plans for Ashland Place and McGuinness Boulevard in Brooklyn, and has reportedly paused work on the Underhill Avenue "open street" redesign nearby.

To get the city back on track and reduce fatalities, Harris urged Adams to re-commit to the master plan and to "follow through with essential street safety projects."

"Promises won’t keep bike riders safe – but completed, fully protected bike lanes will. The time to act is now," Harris said. Fast track the Streets Plan without any more delays or excuses. Lives depend on it."

Adams has defended himself by noting historically low pedestrian death rates this year — something corroborated by the Transportation Alternatives report.

Pedestrian fatalities are down to the the lowest level since former Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic deaths in 2014, the report said. Ninety-nine percent of those pedestrian fatalities were caused by cars, truck or other large vehicles — with SUVs the most prominent killer.

The deadliest district for traffic deaths through the first nine months of 2023 was District 31 in Queens, represented by City Council Transportation Chair Selvena Brooks-Powers.

In its report, Transportation Alternatives called on Brooks-Powers and her Council colleagues to pass Intro 417, which would speed up bike lane construction by eliminating a mandatory three-month wait period between the announcement of a project and its implementation.

Commenting on behalf of the administration, DOT spokesman Chris Browne noted in a statement that 2023 is on track "to have the fewest pedestrian fatalities and seventh-fewest overall traffic fatalities in 114 years of recorded data."

Browne claimed the city is "breaking records for miles of new protected bike lanes this year."

“We also have nearly 100 street improvement projects recently completed or underway in addition to innovative work hardening and widening existing bike lanes," he said. "With creative strategies and major projects in all five boroughs, DOT is making our streets safer for New Yorkers and improving public space every day."

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