Safety Lags For Cyclists on Long Island

While roadway improvements have made biking safer in the tri-state area, in many places bikers must still take their lives into their own hands when they ride. In particular, bicyclists on Long Island have a much higher fatality rate than most others in the tri-state region. A recent Newsday article highlights the dangers of biking in Long Island, noting that “the bicycle crash death rate on Long Island far exceeds that of New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut.”

A TSTC analysis of bike fatalities from 2007-2009 in the twelve counties in downstate New York tells a similar story. It shows that Long Island’s bike fatality rate is 1.54 times greater than the downstate region’s rate. Looking at the individual counties, Suffolk County tops the list, while Brooklyn and Nassau counties come in second and third respectively.

Rank Region Average yearly population, 2007-2009 Average yearly bicyclist fatalities, 2007-2009 Average yearly bicyclist fatality rate per 100,000, 2007-2009
1 Suffolk County 1,514,547.33 7.00 0.46
2 Long Island 2,869,094.33 10.67 0.37
3 Kings County 2,552,081.67 9.00 0.35
4 Nassau County 1,354,547.00 3.67 0.27
5 Downstate NY 13,239,659.00 31.33 0.24
5 New York City 8,349,629.00 19.67 0.24
7 Dutchess County 292,625.67 0.67 0.23
7 New York County 1,628,634.67 3.67 0.23
9 Bronx County 1,390,574.67 2.67 0.19
9 Queens County 2,291,021.67 4.33 0.19
11 Hudson Valley 2,020,935.67 1.00 0.05
12 Westchester County 950,786.67 0.33 0.03
13 Richmond County 487,316.33 0.00 0.00
13 Putnam County 99,122.33 0.00 0.00
13 Orange County 379,759.33 0.00 0.00
13 Rockland County 298,641.67 0.00 0.00

*Population is average population from 2007-2009. Bike fatality rate rounded to nearest tenth. Sources: Census Bureau and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s FARS database.

Advocates pointed to a lack of bicycle infrastructure, as well as roads like Hempstead Turnpike and Route 25/25A, which were designed to speed cars through neighborhoods without accommodating the needs of walkers and bikers. From Newsday:

Bicyclists and transportation advocates say Long Island needs safer routes for cyclists, including more bike lanes and uninterrupted shoulders.

“Without the bike infrastructure, without the pedestrian infrastructure, there’s a dangerous environment for all people who are using the roads, including drivers,” said Ryan Lynch, senior planner for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

New York State’s Complete Streets legislation, which passed the State Assembly and Senate this June and is awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature, would help protect bicyclists across the state by making sure that major road projects consider all users of the road – from cars to pedestrians to bicyclists.

Newsday also noted that Hispanic residents were disproportionately represented in bicycle crashes. In Suffolk County, workers “often need to get to work either by bicycle or on foot since public transportation is inadequate,” Rev. Allan B. Ramirez of Brookville Reformed Church told the paper. Potential transit cuts in Nassau County could exacerbate this problem.

Editor note: This post was updated in October 2013.

2 Comments on "Safety Lags For Cyclists on Long Island"

  1. Steve Winthrop | July 20, 2011 at 9:16 am |

    If anyone is to “blame” here it’s the local municipalities who promulgate land use plans that are not friendly to all modes of tranportation. Tri-State should focus their attention on the Town and County Planning Departments. Road design will follow the context created by the surroundings.

    With respect to NY24, what would Tri-State recommend? And please consider the desires of the surounding businesses.

  2. Great work here. I remember cycling on LI in the 1970s when I was too young to drive – long rides from Lynbrook to Oyster Bay, and shorter rides after school to Long Beach. Since the mid-80s, I’ve been riding in Manhattan.

    I have often have felt that riding on LI was less safe than riding in the city. Why? Busy roads, high speeds, hardly any bike infrastructure at all. For better or worse, your data puts some meat on the bones of my admittedly personal, subjective opinion.

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