The New York City Department of Transportation enjoyed a small victory last week with the announcement that the city has surpassed its goal of constructing 15 miles of fully protected bike lanes in 2016. By the end of this year, 18 miles will be completed.
This achievement has been overshadowed by another statistic, however. With 3 months left in the year, New York has seen 17 cyclist deaths so far in 2016. That is already 2 more deaths than 2015’s tally.
The increase in deaths diminishes hope for the success of Vision Zero, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to eliminate traffic deaths by 2020.
The changes effected by Vision Zero include lowering speed limits across the city to 25 miles per hour, redesigning streets, and imposing harsher penalties on motorists found liable for collisions.
The construction of fully protected bike lanes, which are shielded from the street by pedestrian islands or rows of parked cars, has been a significant component of Vision Zero. For the 7 years before Mayor de Blasio took office, an average of 5.2 miles of fully protected bike lanes were built each year. 2015 set a record at 12.4 miles, and 2016 shattered that record.
“Protected bike lanes not only get more people cycling, they calm traffic and save lives,” said Mayor de Blasio. Under his leadership, the Department of Transportation has constructed a total of 75 miles of new bike lanes—both protected and unprotected—so far this year.
Not everyone is happy with the campaign’s results, however. After 78-year-old Michael Schenkman was killed on his bike, his son Peter Schenkman criticized the city’s resistance to change. “Bicycles and cars don’t seem to work here,” said Schenkman. “Bicycles aren’t looked at as positively as they are in Europe or even Canada.”
So far, the unfortunate byproduct of New York’s transformation into a cyclist-friendly city has been the increase in cyclist deaths. Even while safer bike lanes are built, the surge of cyclists on the road has resulted in more accidents, injuries, and deaths.
This information presents a dilemma for New Yorkers considering adding biking to their lifestyle. The city is the most convenient for cyclists that it has ever been, but it is still a dangerous environment.
Though the number of fully protected bike lanes remains limited, these lanes are by far the safest routes to take by bike. For a complete map of New York bike lanes, visit www.nycbikemaps.com.
Sources: Barone, Vincent, “Bicycling in NYC: Record-setting year for protected bike paths, city says,” AM New York, 13 September 2016.
Dillon, Nancy, Dan Rivoli and Denis Slattery, “Death of Queens cyclist hikes city’s bike fatalities; ‘We have a dream of Vision Zero, but cyclists continue to die on the streets,'” New York Daily News, 25 August 2016.
Fermino, Jennifer, “Mayor de Blasio announces plans to add 18 miles of protected bike lanes in NYC,” New York Daily News, 13 September 2016.