NYPD Admits: There Are A Lot More Injured Cyclists Than You Realize

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There are a lot more injured cyclists than you realize.

In the coming days, the NYPD is about to change its long-criticized policy of classifying injured e-bike riders as “motor vehicle occupants” and reclassify them as what they are — injured cyclists — meaning that the number of injured cyclists on the NYPD’s TrafficStat page is about to jump about 10 percent, Streetsblog has learned.

According to Sgt. Jamie Gifkins in the office of new Transportation Bureau Chief William Morris, there are roughly 400 injuries that will now be shifted from “occupant” to “bicycle,” which as of Dec. 15 stood at 4,140 in NYPD statistics. That number will jump to above 4,500 in either the next TrafficStat update or the one after that, Gifkins said.

Advocates said the policy will help draw more attention to the city’s vulnerable road users by better documenting the true number of two-wheeling commuters who are being injured on New York City streets.

“We’ve said for years that e-bikes are bikes — not motorcycles,” said Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Ellen McDermott. “This change by the NYPD … will better reflect the reality on our streets.”

Advocates for e-bike delivery workers said the change would help ease a backlash — mostly created by the NYPD and the mayor — against those least-paid, hard-working contract employees, who exist largely in the shadows, yet are subject to bike seizures and tickets by cops.

“By previously and erroneously classifying e-bike riders the same as ‘motor vehicle occupants,’ the city made practically invisible the injuries and fatalities suffered by e-bike riders, such as immigrant delivery workers, in public safety data,” said Do Lee of the Biking Public Project. “Re-classifying e-bike riders as bicyclists is a good step to have public safety data that more accurately reflects how delivery workers on e-bikes experience dangers and harm from systemic motor vehicular violence every day in city streets.”

Jim Burke, a coordinator for Ciclistas Latinoamericanos de NY also agreed that it’s a good change.

“Cyclists, whether they are using their own power, pedal assist or throttle, are all riding a bike,” he said. “If they are injured they should be counted among our injured cyclists.”

But not all bike advocates support the change because it may muddy the available data.

“I would like to see fully motorized bikes categorized on their own, perhaps with electric scooters, powered skateboards, etc., so that we get a clearer picture of what’s really going on,” said Jon Orcutt of Bike NY and a former DOT official under Mayor Bloomberg. “I’d also like the city’s Vision Zero View data presentation categorize the killing vehicle in fatal cases, so we know if it’s a truck, bus, [or] TLC-regulated vehicle [or] a bike, an e-bike or scooter in the case of pedestrians/bikes hit by bikes.”

Though announced by the NYPD, the policy has the backing of City Hall, Gifkins said.

This year has been a particularly bloody one for cyclists, with 29 dying since Jan. 1, up from 10 over the same period last year. The death count is believed to be the worst since 1999 — and certainly the highest in the Vision Zero era. Cyclist injuries have hovered around 4,500 per year, according to city stats. The addition of the 400 or so e-bike riders will bring the total number of injuries to its historic average, despite multiple efforts by the de Blasio administration to reduce crashes.

It is always worth remembering: there are roughly 230,000 injury- and non-injury-causing crashes in New York City every year, roughly 630 per day. Roughly 60,000 people are injured in car crashes every year, with 200 to 300 dying every year.