[Update 9/26: For further reading, see last week’s City Room article about how this study has been critiqued by other members of the Hunter College’s urban planning faculty.]
Earlier this week, two Hunter College professors released a study showing that between 2007 and 2010, approximately 1,000 pedestrians were injured by cyclists. Those so inclined have heralded this study as proof that bicycles on streets mean less safe streets. Though the number of injuries is higher than previous academic estimates, as Streetsblog and others have pointed out, the study also shows that the number of pedestrian injuries has decreased even as the number of bicyclists has increased.
Furthermore, looking at bike/pedestrian crashes in New York City, the study uncovers an interesting pattern. The authors note that the “place of residence of individuals involved in pedestrian-cyclist accidents parallels exactly the ranking of the location of all pedestrian deaths in New York City.” This suggests that unsafe places are unsafe places: it’s likely that streets with large numbers of pedestrian/bicycle crashes also have large numbers of pedestrian/vehicle crashes; they are simply unsafe places to walk.
The study finds Brooklyn and Manhattan to have the highest pedestrian/bike accidents, with 34.4% and 28.1%, respectively, of New York City’s share. The study does not provide information on the crashes at an individual roadway level, but many of the roads in the neighborhoods with the highest number of crashes — East Harlem and the Lower East Side — are wide, fast roads that currently lack adequate bike/ped infrastructure.
Viewed in this light, the study shows the need for greater bike and pedestrian infrastructure throughout the City. In fact, Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito has already made this link, saying via Twitter that the study underscores the need for more protected bike lanes above 96th Street. The connection between safer streets and bicycle and pedestrian improvements is well-supported. A NYCDOT study found that pedestrian improvements in Midtown and lower Broadway have reduced pedestrian injuries by 35%, and injuries to motorists and passengers were down 63% since implementation in 2009.
While some have suggested that the Hunter study gives New Yorkers a reason to be wary of the City’s bike policies including the recently-announced bike share program, those pedestrians most at risk seem to understand that better bike infrastructure means safety for all. The study finds that Hispanic residents are “overrepresented among [pedestrians] involved in pedestrian-cyclist accidents.” They are also the ethnic group which has been most supportive of bike lanes in recent citywide polls. It looks there’s some light at the end of this bike path.