Bloody January: Cyclist Injuries and Fatalities Soared Last Month [Updated]

This is what New York City looks like when the NYPD puts a pin at the location of every one of the 14,538 reported collisions that occurred in just the first 28 days of 2019. Photo: NYPD
This is what New York City looks like when the NYPD puts a pin at the location of every one of the 14,538 reported collisions that occurred in just the first 28 days of 2019. Photo: NYPD

Screw April — January is turning out to be the cruelest month for city cyclists.

In the first 28 days of the year — many of them brutally cold — 191 cyclists were reported injured, up from 158, or 20 percent, from the same period last year. And 19 people — pedestrians, cyclists and motorists — have been killed in the same 28-day span, up 90 percent, from the 10 who died during the same period last year.

The uptick in injuries is the result of a single particularly gruesome statistic: In the first 28 days of 2019, there were 14,538 reported collisions across the city. As astoundingly high as that number sounds — fourteen thousand five hundred and thirty eight! — it’s actually down a bit since last year.

Still, it’s unclear what is causing the uptick in injures — particularly in Queens. Here’s how the data break down geographically:

  • Brooklyn North: Cyclist injuries are up from 24 to 41 — or 70.8 percent.
  • Brooklyn South: Cyclist injuries are up from 33 to 40 — or 21.2 percent.
  • Bronx: Cyclist injuries are up from 11 to 16 — or 45.5 percent.
  • Manhattan North: Cyclist injuries are up from 13 to 15 — or 15.4 percent.
  • Queens North: Statistics are trending badly across multiple categories.
    • Collisions with injuries are up from 478 to 514, or 7.5 percent.
    • Total injuries are up from 613 to 668, or 9 percent.
    • Pedestrian injuries are up from 137 to 167, or 22 percent.
    • Cyclist injuries are up from 28 to 31, or 10.7 percent.
  • Queens South: Cyclist injuries are up from 3 to 10, or 233 percent. Pedestrian injuries are also up from 79 to 84, or 6.3 percent.
  • Staten Island also had significant increases in road violence:
    • Collisions with injuries are up from 139 to 175, or 25.9 percent.
    • Total injuries are up from 173 to 245, or 41.6 percent.
    • Pedestrian injuries are up from 20 to 43, or 115 percent.

The only NYPD command with significant decreases in injuries is Manhattan South, which comprises all of the precincts below Central Park. Overall, cyclist injuries down, from 45 to 37, a decline of nearly 18 percent.

The issue, activists say, is the lack of serious pursuit of scofflaw drivers.

“We’re really suffering a lack of NYPD enforcement, which is a reckless disregard for safety,” said Cris Furlong of Make Queens Safer. “High up on my top 10 ‘to do’ list, is really hammer in the need for enforcement with our precincts and NYPD higher ups, because … drivers get away with all their reckless choices.”

There clearly is some enforcement going on. In 2018, for example, the NYPD wrote roughly 1,066,000 moving violation tickets, including 152,368 for speeding and 211,887 for ignoring a traffic signal. School zone and red light cameras issued hundreds of thousands more.

Furlong pointed out that the January increases buck historic trends. Overall, Queens fatalities have dropped 26 percent from 2013 and pedestrian and cyclist fatalities are down 22 percent, she said. But overall deaths increased slightly last year — the first time that’s happened since 2013.

“Bike advocates across the borough have made incredible inroads in getting more secure bike lanes,” she said. “And the DOT has ramped up pedestrian safety projects as much as they can across the borough.”

But it’s not enough, added Marco Conner, the interim co-director of Transportation Alternatives.

“Although Vision Zero has saved lives, the number of people injured has barely changed during the same period since 2013,” he said. “Some years have even had increases. More people are biking (which explains some the increases), but these injuries are not acceptable.”

Conner said there is simply a “big question mark” on Vision Zero because “safety is not an absolute priority by Mayor de Blasio.”

“We will continue to see unacceptable deaths and injuries until not a single life-saving street element is sacrificed to preserve a parking space,” Conner said. “Too much has been invested in preserving the status quo of streets that allow more than 200 people to die every year, and far too little is being invested in known life-saving treatments. Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez has called for 100 lane miles of protected bike lanes annually; that is the kind of bold and sensible investment we need to see.”

After initial publication of this story, the Department of Transportation issued this statement, through spokeswoman Alana Morales:

As we reported at the end of 2018, traffic fatalities are at record lows, even as New York City’s population and tourism – along with the number of pedestrians and cyclists – have all increased to record highs. Conditions are measurably safer for the most vulnerable street users.

It is also important to note that in the traffic statistics Streetsblog cites, severe traffic injuries are not sorted from minor injuries, a meaningful difference for Vision Zero. That is, a “fender-bender” can be reported among the latter category, even if no one involved in the crash is hospitalized. We believe the increase in the number of minor-injury crashes could be explained by a number of factors, including the increase in the volume of registered vehicles in NYC.

We do recognize however, that overall fatalities have gone up so far this year, and so we are monitoring trends closely. With those trends in mind, DOT will soon release Vision Zero Borough Pedestrian Safety Action Plans, updated for the first time since 2015, which will refocus where we target our interventions, safety engineering, enforcement action, and education initiatives.

And unfortunately, for the most reliable crash information, we will have to wait for the state to provide updated official severe injury data, which can lag by as much as two years.

The NYPD did not comment.


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