More Bikes, Less Cars.
Testimony in Favor of Bike Lanes
by Benjamin Shepard, PhD
Benjamin Shepard here. By day, I am a college professor at New York College of Technology/CUNY. Every day, I ride my bike from Smith Street across Jay Street to Tillary, where I traverse into traffic to avoid crashing into cars double parked outside of the Court, swerving in and out of the designated bike lanes. I am certainly not alone in having this experience. According to a Hunter College study, there is a 60 percent chance of a cyclist being obstructed by a car in a bike lane (Nelson, 2009).
For the last five years, I have participated in bike lane liberation rides as a member of Times UP! We have witnessed cars double parked in lanes, police cars in bike lanes, loading trucks in bike lanes, delivery vans in bike lanes. Yet, never have I seen a policeman arresting a car in one of these lanes. "Is this a parking lot or a bike lane? we frequently ask those parked in the lanes. “Is this thing a bike?”
My days begin dropping my two daughters off on Prospect Park where countless kids now ride to and from school. We lost a bus line (the #71) so more and more people ride. I hope the ride will become safer as time passes and these new riders grow. I applaud the city for its commitment to cycling. But the experience must become safer so more of the new bikers can ride with confidence.
Today, riding in New York City is not a safe experience. Over the last year, I have been doored by two cars - this year alone and that was on a bike lane. On one of the drivers even suggested it was an optional bike lane. No one should take their life in their hands when they ride to school or work.
The New York Department of Health report “Bicyclist Fatalities and Serious Injuries in New York City1996-2005” confirms this finding. Key findings from the report note that:
1. While bicyclist injuries declined between 1996 and 2003, fatalities remained steady.
• Between 1996 and 2003, a total of 3,462 NYC bicyclists were seriously injured in crashes with motor vehicles.
The annual number of serious bicyclist injuries decreased by 46% during the 8-year period.
• Between 1996 and 2005, 225 bicyclists died in crashes. Bicyclist deaths remained steady during the 10-year period.
2. Bicyclist fatality rates in New York City are similar to national rates, though NYC has higher rates of
cycling for transportation.
• The bicyclist fatality rate for NYC is similar to the national rate – 2.8 compared to 2.7 per one million residents.
• Census data show that many more NYC adults (11% vs. 3%) walk or bicycle to work compared to the national average.
3. Nearly all bicyclist fatalities (92%) occurred as a result of crashes with motor vehicles.
• Most crashes (89%) occurred at or near intersections.
• Although they make up only 5–17% of vehicles on NYC roadways, large vehicles (trucks, buses) accounted
for almost one third (32%) of fatalities.
• Nearly all (94%) fatalities involved poor driving or bicycle riding practices, particularly driver inattention and
disregarding traffic signals and signs.
• Although there are many more miles of local roads, more than half of fatal crashes occurred on arterial (large,
four lane) roads (53%).
• 7% of fatal crashes occurred on limited access highways, where bicycling is prohibited.
4. Bicycle lanes and properly used bicycle equipment may reduce the risk of fatalities.
Biking is a solution for a global city. It reduces traffic and opens up the city to new perspectives, connecting the boroughs, bridging streets and people, communities and individual riders. Yet, the program will never reach its full potential as long as there is no enforcement of traffic laws prohibiting cars from parking in the bike lanes.
I applaud the city for the increase in bike lanes. I now ask for assistance from you in supporting safe, non-polluting transportation.
NYDOH. Bicyclist Fatalities and Serious Injuries in New York City
Nelson, Katie. 2009. Hunter College Survey Finds Car Drivers Block Bicycle Lanes in
Manhattan. New York Dailey News. , 3 December 3. , Accessed 29 December 2009 http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2009/12/03/2009-