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1,000 New Yorkers treated in hospital every year after being hit by bikes says study

Anti social cycling pinpointed as the cause

A new study claims that around 1,000 pedestrians in New York State are treated in hospital each year following collisions with cyclists, more than half of the incidents taking place in New York City itself.

The research was commissioned from two professors at New York City’s Hunter College by the Stuart C. Gruskin Family Foundation, and is aimed at filling a perceived gap in the provision of statistics relating to pedestrian/cyclist collisions.

The charity was set up by Nancy Gruskin, whose husband was killed two and a half years ago when he was struck by a delivery cyclist going the wrong way down a one-way street.

“I knew that that man that day did not set out to kill my husband, and I knew that he was just trying to get his food where it needed to go," Mrs Gruskin told the website NY1 in an interview earlier this year.

One initiative that the Mrs Gruskin set up following her husband’s death is a ‘Pedal Pledge’ designed primarily for businesses with delivery riders, but which can be supported by individual cyclists too, under which they commit to observing ‘5 to Ride rules,namely:

  1. put Pedestrians first
  2. stop at Every red light
  3. ride in the right Direction — with traffic
  4. stay on the Asphalt, off the sidewalk
  5. pick one Lane, and stick with it

As those five points suggest, the focus is against anti-social cycling by encouraging cyclists to ride responsibly while adhering to existing laws, rather than against cycling itself by seeking to impose new ones.

As a dedicated website for the initiative states, “We truly believe that New York area businesses, and individuals alike want to safely grow our city bicycle culture, which means following the rules of the road,” and the initiative also has the support of the local non-profit cycling advocacy group, Bike NYC.

Regarding the casualty statistics compiled by William Milczarski and Peter Tuckel of Hunter College, Mrs Gruskin told Reuters: "There were not statistics being kept on bicycle-pedestrian incidents. We just really wanted to get a better idea of what's going on our city streets."

The report’s authors said that their research "supports the wide body of anecdotal data that pedestrians are at risk not only from motor vehicle drivers but also from cyclists," although the study does not distinguish between incidents resulting for instance from cyclists riding on the sidewalk or pedestrians stepping into the street.

New York City Department Of Transportation (DOT) spokesman Seth Solomonow did not contest the statistics, but sought to put them into the context of wider road traffic casualty data.

"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," he told Reuters.

Mr Solomonow added that out of around 600 pedestrians killed in road traffic accidents during the past four years, only three had been struck by a bicycle – which by those rough numbers makes cars around 200 times more lethal.

As with the casualty statistics in general, the circumstances of those three fatalities involving bicycles, including whether the collisions took place on the sidewalk or on the street, for example, were not disclosed.

In the UK as a whole, there were just three recorded instances of pedestrians being killed following collisions with cyclists between 1999 and 2009, according to Department for Transport statistics.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Tony Farrelly | 12 years ago

Hi Paul, yest it's in the story. According to the NY Dept of Transportation nearly 10,000 pedestrians required hospital treatment after being in collision with cars and 600 were killed in the preceding 3 year period.

Paul M | 12 years ago

Did they provide any context, by quoting the stats for pedestrians injured in collisions with motor vehicles?

They would certainly have been much higher. Over the decade to 2007 in the UK, 0.4% of pedestrian road deaths were due to cycles, the other 99.6% motor vehicles. 0.7% of pedestrian injuries were in collisions with cyclists.

The City of London Police's figures for three years to August 2010 show 330 pedestrian injuries and 3 killed (all 3 by motor vehicles and 2 in the same incident where a vehicle rolled backwards down Pudding Lane). COLP's stats are broken down by who is considered to be at fault, rather than who they were hit by, and of 330 injuries, 15 were attributed to cyclists. Nearly two thirds, 219, were attributed to the pedestrians themselves, through drink/drugs, or simple inattention including phoning/texting.

In the same period, 319 cyclists were involved in collisions, of which 20 were attributed to peddestrians - in other words, peds were more of a hazard to cyclists than vice versa.

I find NYC residents to be a particularly rude, aggressive bunch (the only worse place I have ever been being Nice, in France) so I am prepared to believe that cycle culture there might be more hazardous to pedestrians, but even so.

mad_scot_rider | 12 years ago


I must admit - I've suffered 2 'serious' injuries in 4 years of commuting

The first was my own stupid fault when out just a week after getting a lovely new hybrid - funny, it didn't corner quite like my old mtb - nobody else involved, just NASTY road-rash

The second was a head injury and nasty concussion when a pedestrian (AKA 'lemming') stepped out at a crossing against a red light and I had to swerve sharply to avoid - the sod never even stopped and I ended up in hospital

So when do we get our study of cycling injuries caused by pedestrians to start lobbying for laws against them?

brylonscamel | 12 years ago

In 35 years of cycling, the worst injury I sustained was in collision with a jaywalking pedestrian; breaking both tibia & fibula. Worse than anything sustained whilst riding mountain bikes or racing at the track!

This accident was not isolated and I’ve had frequent encounters with pedestrians - sprinting from between buses, crossing on ‘the red man’ and stumbling about with headphones whilst texting. Fellow cyclists can also be a hazard, often with poor observational skills, appalling bike handling and no road manners.
Just because injuries tend to be more minor than those involving vehicles and rarely fatal does not make them irrelevant. I suspect they are frequent but go unreported.

I wonder what a straw-poll of contributors would reveal!?

BigDummy | 12 years ago

It's hard to argue with their 5 rules anyway.

And it's hard as cyclists to start "blaming the victim". But my hunch is that a fair old proportion of people who are hit by cyclists simply don't pay sufficient attention before stepping into the road. They're aware enough that they won't get hit by a truck, but not enough to pick up that a bike is there...

Chuck | 12 years ago

I dunno, I can easily believe it. I know that anything you see on the web is only a one-eyed snapshot and not every cyclist in NY is a courier type, but there do seem to be a lot of people riding like idiots there. Just as in London I'm sure there are a good number of pedestrians getting taken out by bikes every year.

mad_scot_rider | 12 years ago

Not that I have proof or anything - but when I hear a study commissioned by *that* partisan a group comes out clearly making the point they'd hoped ... I wanna check the study methodology

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