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Mayor de Blasio Adds More Bike Lanes

But Will It Curb Rising Deaths?

By Jeff Vasishta September 19, 2016
Photo courtesy of tac.vic.gov.au

[otw_shortcode_dropcap label=”W” font=”Bowlby One SC” color_class=”otw-black-text” background_color_class=”otw-no-background” size=”large” border_color_class=”otw-no-border-color”][/otw_shortcode_dropcap]hat’s there not to like about Mayor de Blasio’s recently announced plans to add 75 miles of new bikes lanes to NYC streets? As people become increasingly aware of the environment, biking as a form of transportation becomes more and more important prevalent the city. With train closings, expensive cabs and soul crushing traffic, riding a bike to work can make an isolated neighborhood a viable option. So, as cycling becomes increasingly popular, accidents and bicycle fatalities are also on the rise.  Last year by Labor Day there were 11 biking deaths in NYC. This year, so far, there have been 17. The Mayor’s office has responded to this predicament by building new bike lanes—but is it enough?

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The Mayor’s announcement of the 75 miles of new bike lanes, is, of course, great news. But, the downside is that only 18 miles of these lanes are fully protected. The fully protected lanes are ones painted green and where no cars can pass on either side. Otherwise, as many city bikers are only too aware, often drivers take scant regard of retrofitted (non-green) bike lanes. Often they view these lanes as a mere suggestion—that if they feel so inclined, they might want to consider not driving in them. However, New York being what it is, drivers tend to do what they want. Perhaps what concerns bikers the most is the threat of “dooring”. It’s like a game of Russian roulette on two wheels out there. Dooring is when a rider passes a parked car and a driver opens their car door. As one can imagine, serious injuries or death can be common results.

Photo courtesy of informatique via Flickr
Photo courtesy of informatique via Flickr

Here’s how Daniel Flanzig, a member of the Bike Law network in New York, described dooring accidents on his site, NewYorkBikeLawyer.com:

The “door zone” is the space of 2-4 feet adjacent to parallel parked or stopped cars. While cycling in the “door zone,” a cyclist can suffer a severe injury or even death if a door is suddenly opened into their path of travel. “Doorings” are all too common in New York and make up a large percentage of our cycling crash practice.” You can imagine—or perhaps you have already experienced—the horror of seeing a car door open in front of you while riding down the street.

Aware of the uptick in biking fatalities, Polly Trottenberg, the Department of Transportation Commissioner stated: “Our Vision Zero goal has always been to make sure that with the massive growth in its popularity, cycling remains safe.”

“No cyclist death is acceptable and that’s why we’ll continue raising the bar to keep riders protected,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement of his own.

Transportation Alternatives director Paul Steely White told Streetsblog that the mayor’s goal of adding 10 miles of protected bike lanes each year is “paltry.”

By the end of the year DOT would have expanded its bike lanes significantly, but as only a small percentage of them are truly protected, bikers are still in danger all over the city. The good news is that the city has installed more exclusive bike lanes than it has in previous years. But if it hopes to achieve its goal of zero fatalities and emulate bike friendly cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, all bike lanes should be protected. In NYC, that might be a tall order.

Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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