A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about why there should be an attempt to have people switch from automobiles to bicycles whenever possible. I gave many reasons for the switch. Unfortunately, I was reminded that I left out one important reason: It reduces the number of deaths and serious injuries. As reported in the September 26, 2019, Queens Jewish Link, someone was hit by a car and killed while crossing Jewel Avenue and 140th street. His wife months earlier had been seriously injured while she crossed Jewel Avenue a few blocks away.
Between 2012-2014, 497 pedestrians were killed; 492 by a motor vehicle and five by a bicycle. (NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene EPI Data Brief March 2017) These numbers are not surprising. An average bike weighs 25 pounds plus its passenger. With the increase of SUVs, the average weight of motor vehicles has increased. For example, a midsize SUV is 4,400 pounds and a large SUV 5,600 pounds. Trucks, depending on their size, weigh significantly more. For example, a garbage truck weighs 50,000 pounds. Also, motor vehicles travel faster than bikes.
If a person is going to be hit, it is obvious which is more dangerous and more likely to cause serious injury or death.
I know three people in one shul who were seriously injured by a motor vehicle while crossing either Jewel Avenue or 73rd Avenue. I have been fortunate a few times to just avoid being hit by a motor vehicle whose driver ran the light or made a turn quickly without checking for pedestrians. Many motor vehicle drivers forget that the pedestrians have the right of way when they are crossing with the light.
Also, as a bike rider I was hit twice. One time was by a driver who misjudged whether she could pass me. She clipped my handlebars, I was knocked down, and ended up in the ER. The next accident was when I was riding in the bike lane on Jewel Ave and a driver opened their car door without looking to see if anyone was coming. Fortunately, I was not seriously hurt. Unfortunately, in New York City this year, 21 bicycle riders were killed by motor vehicles.
It is hard to change even when change will be good. People like to make excuses. Blaming bicycle riders is just an excuse to continue driving. I guess it was not surprising that the reaction by some to my prior article was to cite examples of bicycle riders who did not obey the rules of the road or otherwise were obnoxious.
Sure, there are bicyclists who act this way. However, it is not limited to bicycle riders. Motor vehicle drivers also act this way. Pedestrians also do not obey the rules of the road and create dangerous situations. When motor vehicle drivers act in such a manner, the results are more deadly. If a motor vehicle is involved in a crash with a pedestrian or a bicyclist it is obvious who is going to be injured. If a bicyclist or a pedestrian does not obey the rules and a crash occurs with a motor vehicle, they will usually be the one who suffers the consequences.
The bottom line is that it is the motor vehicle drivers, bicycle riders, and pedestrians’ obligation to follow the rules of the road and otherwise behave in a civil manner. If they do not abide by the law there must be better enforcement. It will help save lives and reduce injuries. In addition, reducing the number of vehicles will also help save lives and reduce serious injuries.