More Injured by Bicyclists

September 20, 2011

Source: WSJ

Pedestrians and a cyclist cross the Brooklyn Bridge. © Getty Images

Pedestrians and a cyclist cross the Brooklyn Bridge. © Getty Images

About 1,000 pedestrians are injured statewide each year due to accidents involving bicyclists, and 55% of the incidents occur in New York City, according to a study released Monday.

The study found that Brooklyn pedestrians were the most likely in the city to end up visiting a hospital as a result of a collision with a cyclist, with 34% of such incidents occurring in the borough. Manhattan was second-highest, with 28%, followed by the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. East Harlem was the neighborhood with the most incidents in the city.

The overall state numbers far exceed those in a study last year, which estimated that injuries to pedestrians by cyclists hovered around 1,000 nationwide.

Hunter College professor Peter Tuckel, who co-author of both studies with colleague William Milczarski, attributed the disparity to the previous study being based on an estimate from a random sampling of hospitals across the country; the new study relies on data from every hospital in New York state.

The study released Monday, which tallied pedestrians who visited hospitals after colliding with a cyclist, is based on four years of figures obtained from the state Department of Health’s system for collecting patient data.

Released on behalf of the Stuart C. Gruskin Foundation, whose namesake was killed by a delivery biker traveling in the wrong direction, the study comes amid a dramatic increase in the number of cyclists on city streets. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, has made encouraging cycling a priority by installing miles of bike lanes.

“There had been very little systematic data gathered on this phenomenon, and it suggests that this is not insignificant and merits serious attention from the Department of Transportation and health officials,” Mr. Tuckel said.

The reporting of these accidents will be required beginning Oct. 1, when a law mandating the city keep such statistics goes into effect.

Pedestrians crossing Delancey Street, one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city, said they were familiar with the often complicated interplay of vehicles and people that can set the stage for collisions.

“This is a treacherous place for a million different reasons,” said Tina Carr, 39 years old, who crosses Delancey three or four times a day when taking her son to school or visiting her mother-in-law. “You’re dealing with so many unpredictable elements and it doesn’t take much before you have an accident.”

Biker Craig Escalante, 41 years old, who works in shipping and receiving, said he’s had several near accidents due to the crowding and construction in the intersection.

“This area is really dangerous because the pedestrians are funneled right into the bike path,” he said, “and people come off the bridge very fast.”

Still, few city pedestrians who visit emergency rooms after crashes with bikes are, in fact, admitted to the hospital, with 89% treated and released.

And while the number of city cyclists has risen since Ms. Sadik-Khan made a priority of installing bike lanes, the number of hospital visits by pedestrians struck by bikes has remained stable.

“There are nearly 10,000 people who visit the hospital citywide each year after being struck by cars, so this is actually a pretty low number—one that’s been kept low because of our safety investments,” said Seth Solomonow, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation.

“We still have to drive it down further and will continue to work with NYPD to enforce the law for everyone on the road and install bike lanes to separate vehicles from cyclists and cyclists from pedestrians,” he said. “These make streets safer for everyone who uses them and have helped make the last four years the safest in the city in a century.”

Still, with the city planning a bicycle-sharing program that may bring as many as 10,000 communal bikes to city streets by next summer, Mr. Tuckel suggested that officials might boost efforts to educate pedestrians about how to share the road with both bikes and cars. “The bottom line is, everybody’s got to comport themselves,” he said. “We’re not interested in apportioning blame to cyclists.”

—Andrew Grossman and Amber Benham contributed to this article.