2014 is nearing an end, and many are already trying to gauge the effectiveness of Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” initiative. Because of the campaign and because it has long been a problem, more media attention is now being focused on pedestrian and bicycle accidents across the city.
The numbers should be shocking enough to combat the apathy that can set in when a problem is commonplace. A bicyclist or pedestrian is killed every 48 hours in an accident involving a motor vehicle. As of mid October, traffic-related fatalities in New York had killed approximately 200 people this year alone. And for children age 12 and under, traffic accidents are the No. 1 cause of death.
A recent article in New York Magazine discusses the bicyclist/pedestrian accident problem from a perspective that is too often missed. It gives the names and ages of eight victims who died as well as brief summaries of how they were killed and the response to it. The patterns emerging from these stories paint a clear picture of the many problems facing pedestrians and bicyclists in New York.
One major problem is that police are reluctant to investigate even suspicious traffic deaths, and at-fault drivers rarely ever face criminal charges. In fact, police are often more likely to blame pedestrians and bicyclists for causing their own fatal accidents than they are to blame drivers.
Consider a fatal bicycle accident in Brooklyn in October 2011. A 30-year-old man was riding his bicycle when he was struck by a turning flatbed truck. There was essentially no investigation. Police said the bicyclist had run a red light and that the driver was probably unaware that he had hit someone.
Months later, after his family filed a Freedom of Information Act request, police finally admitted that the bicyclist had not run a red light. Instead, a video recording showed, the truck had turned without signaling, struck the cyclist, and dragged him for about 40 feet. The bike was dragged another 130 feet.
Please check back later this week as we continue our conversation.
Source: New York Magazine, “What 8 Pedestrian and Cycling Deaths Reveal About the Dangers of Crossing the Street in New York,” Robert Kolker, Oct. 17, 2014