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Why New York City bicyclists should be wary of commercial trucks

Across the country and in major urban cities like New York City, bicycles are becoming more popular than ever with more residents relying on biking to get to work and around their neighborhoods. However, at the same time that cities like New York City expand bike lanes and do more to promote biking, the number of commercial trucks traveling down these same urban streets is also increasing.

According to New York City's Department of Transportation, during 2013 alone, nearly 50,000 people were injured and 290 killed in accidents "involving only bicycles, between bicycles and motorized vehicles, and between bicycles and pedestrians." Because of their size and large blind spots, commercial trucks pose one of the biggest risks to bicyclists' safety.

Many accidents involving commercial trucks and bicyclists occur when a truck driver makes a right-hand turn at an intersection. In cases where a bicyclist isn't aware that a trucker is making a turn or a truck driver doesn't see a bicyclist, the outcome can be deadly. A bicyclist who comes into contact with the side of a turning truck is likely to be pulled under the truck and crushed by the truck's back wheels.

To prevent these types of horrific motor vehicle accidents, some cities have passed laws requiring commercial trucks to install side guards. Comprised of a "panel or set of metal bars running between the two sets of wheels," side guards prevent a bicyclist's, or pedestrian’s, body from effectively being drawn under a commercial truck and under a truck's rear wheels.

In New York City, qualifying commercial vehicles are required to install side guards by the year 2024. This newly passed law, however, provides little comfort for the bicyclists who currently travel the city's truck-filled streets.

Source: Fair Warning, "Collision Course: With Wary Eye on Big Trucks, Bike Riders Seek Safe Space on City Streets," Bridget Huber, June 30, 2015

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