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Cycling Deaths Spark Declaration of Emergency in NYC, Could Impact Events

24 Jul, 2019

By: Michael Popke

This year alone, 15 bicyclists have been killed in New York City — including three in a one-week period — according to local media. Officials blame, at least in part, a surge in truck traffic from a booming e-commerce industry; nearly half of the bicycling fatalities were the result of riders being struck by trucks.

Regardless of the cause, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (and a Democrat running for president) declared the city is facing an “emergency” and proclaimed “we’re going to do a full-court press to stop it. We’re going to use the power of NYPD enforcement on motorists to try to immediately jolt this situation.” 

According to The New York Times:

It was Mr. de Blasio, then the public advocate, who as a candidate for mayor vowed to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and serious injuries. And within weeks of taking office in 2014, he unleashed ticket blitzes on scofflaw drivers and successfully pushed to lower the speed limit to 25 miles per hour in most of the city. 

Since then, the mayor’s aggressive policy — known as Vision Zero — has become his transportation priority and been copied by cities across the country. Year after year, Mr. de Blasio has heralded its success, as the number of people killed annually in traffic fatalities fell from 299 in 2013 to 203 last year, the lowest level in more than a century. 

The soaring numbers of people on bikes have drawn criticism, particularly from some older people, that cyclists can also be menaces, going the wrong way on streets, failing at times to yield to pedestrians and flying through red lights and stop signs.

The recent surge in bicyclist deaths prompted Marco Conner, interim co-director of the Transportation Alternatives advocacy group, to declare that “New Yorkers on bikes are being killed at an alarming rate.”

Conner’s group has published a 78-page report titled “BikeNYC 2020: What New York Needs to Be a World-Class Bicycling City,” which lays out a vision that includes a guarantee that every New Yorker will live within a quarter-mile of a protected bike lane by 2020 and suggests the launch of trial projects to prove the efficacy of “bicycle superhighways.”

Safety of cycling athletes is the prime concern of event owners in that sector. Several important events take place in New York City each year, including the Five Borough Tour in May (with 32,000 cyclists) as well as events that take place outside the city but in the state, such as the Hudson Valley Ride (multiple routes from five to 100 miles). The Bike Expo New York is also held in NYC, as is the East Harlem Bike Camp; both these business events have a strong stake in cyclist safety and in preserving the image of the city as a place to ride.

While no official action has been taken, cyclists have created a 'rogue bike lane' in various places of Manhattan using...toilet plungers. Information and a visual can be found here.

SDM will continue to follow this developing issue.

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