Bicycle Safety on the Streets of New York City

Bicycles and Bicycle Safety on the Streets of New York City

Many people wish to ride a bicycle in New York City as a fast, reliable, time convenient, sustainable, and money-saving mode of transportation. But some negative concerns, difficulties, predictable dangers block those potential bicycle riders to give up this wonderful mode of transportation. According to research regarding this fast growing mode of transportation, there are many fact that influence bicycle riders to give up this popular mode of transportation in New York City. “The number of city bike riders jumped by 35% within a year’s time — making some wonder if New York is big enough for 8 million people, a couple of million cars, and about 185,000 cyclists.” (Melago). And also “some 225 cyclists were hit and killed by cars in the city from 1996 to 2005, while another 3,462 suffered serious injuries in crashes with motor vehicles.” (Melago). Furthermore, almost 75% of serious and fatal injuries in bicycle accidents are due to head injuries. It is because of the danger of injury and possibility death that many people give up riding a bicycle through the streets of New York City. However, those who do choose to ride their bicycles, know the importance of always wearing a helmet and other proper and protective bicycle gear.

Bicycling is one of the most popular modes of transportation in New York City today. Not only is it more cost-efficient than a car, it is also a great way to exercise and keep the human body in great shape. In addition, it is also very green and energy efficient. As more and more people begin to ride their bicycles around the streets in New York City, there are less and less cars on the streets and on the freeway. Traffic is becoming much more flowing and less automobile wrecks are occurring.

No matter what type of bicycle a person is riding, it is highly beneficial for a person’s health. Riding a bicycle is a great aerobic exercise that builds muscle strength and endurance. It also increases the heart rate and this can help improve blood flow throughout the body and prevent many vascular diseases such as clogged arteries and other blood flow problems. In addition, it helps a person to lose a lot of weight and through frequent bike riding, one is more likely to keep off the excess weight. Research shows that people who ride their bicycles weekly are less prone to diseases and colds and they experience a lot less stress in the activities of their daily personal and professional lives. Bicycle riding is a healthy way to get around New York City.

Cost is one of the main reasons why many people in New York City choose to ride their bicycles instead of driving their automobiles. People ride bicycles to work, to a friends house, to the store, or simply just for fun to see the wonderful scenery of New York City. They also ride them in all types of weather. They choose to ride their bicycles because they do not have to spend money in gasoline, car maintenance, and auto repairs. It is much cheaper to repair and maintain a bicycle than it is maintain and repair a car. Purchasing a new bike can also be expensive, but it does not even come close to the cost of purchasing a car. Of course, one can buy a used car, but in the long run, a used car is more likely to break down and cost more in repairs. Therefore, purchasing, maintaining, and repairing a bicycle is the most affordable and economical way to get around New York City.

The ozone is something that is on a lot of people’s minds nowadays. The ozone layer in the sky is slowly depleting and if this happens, then the Earth can easily burn up. One of the factors contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer is the emissions coming from the car. With more and more cars driving on the streets of New York City, the pollution in the air from the exhaust systems on the cars is contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer. In addition, cars and buses pollute the air in many different ways. Riding a bicycle in place of driving car is an energy efficient and “green” choose. It eliminates the cars from the road and stops the emissions from polluting the air. If everyone rode a bike in New York City just for one day, people would be surprised at the level of pollution in the air that is expelled from cars and buses. It is the responsibility of the people to protect the planet Earth and make it a clean, safer place for future generations. Therefore, many people choose to ride their bicycle in New York City than drive their cars.

It is estimated that somewhere around 200,000 people ride a bicycle in New York City on a daily basis. With the increase of bicycles on the street in New York City, the statistics of bicycle related accidents rose. Approximately 75% of all head injuries from a bicycle wreck is the result of not wearing a helmet. Many times, New York City has tried to make helmets a law. If one is riding a bike, then they should also be wearing the proper helmet at all times. (Melago). Bicycle/auto related injuries and accidents also increased with the growing number of bicycles on the street. “Some 225 cyclists were hit and killed by cars in the city from 1996 to 2005, while another 3,462 suffered serious injuries in crashes with motor vehicles.” (Melago). Bicycle accidents that resulted in death are also on the rise in New York. Sometimes, bicycles are hit by oncoming traffic and the rider is thrown from the bike and is killed. It is also known that bicycle riders who have accidents resulting in death generally do not have a protective helmet on their head.

“Bicycle deaths by helmet use, 1994-2005

No helmet Total*

Year Num % Num % Num

1994 776 97-19 2 796

1995 783 95-34 4 828

1996 731 96-27 4 761

1997 785 97-23 3 811

1998 741 98-16 2 757

1999 698 93-42 6 750

2000 622 90-50 7 689

2001 616 84-60 8 729

2002 589 89-54 8 663

2003 527 85-57 9 619

2004 602 83-87-12 722

2005 673 86-76-10 782

*Total includes other and/or unknowns (Helmet laws for bicycle riders)

The bottom line is that helmets save lives and every person riding a bicycle in New York City should also wear a helmet.

With the rapidly growing number of cyclists on cruising down the streets of New York City, the importance of wearing a helmet comes to mind for many people. There are several reasons why a cyclist would choose to wear or not to wear a helmet while their ride their bicycles. Some state that they wear it for safety and protection. One is less likely to suffer a head injury if they have a wreck. Others may wear helmets because they want to be a role model for the proper way to ride a bicycle. Many children ride bikes or they watch people ride bikes in New York City. If the children see adults wearing bicycle helmets, then they are more likely to always a helmet as well.

There are also some reasons why a bicycle rider would choose not to wear a helmet. One of the biggest reason is that the bicyclist does not want the helmet to mess up their hair style. They fear that wearing a helmet while riding their bike will give them “helmet head” and the shape of the helmet will be noticeable in their hair. This is especially true for those people who are riding a bicycle to work or school. Another reason that people do not wear a helmet is because they do not own one and/or they do not have the money to purchase a helmet. Still yet, others do not wear a helmet simply because they do not want to be bothered with the hassle of carrying it around while not riding the bike and they also do not want the hassle of putting it on and taking it off. One should always wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. It may just save the cyclist’s life. Helmets should always be worn when riding a bicycle.

When riding a bicycle, a rider should pay very close attention to the equipment that he/she is wearing. A helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment that a person riding a bicycle can wear. It is something that could possibly save the cyclist’s life if he/she were to wreck the bicycle. Other safety equipment includes things such as knee and elbow pads, a side mirror mounted onto the bike so that the cyclists can see behind, a light or reflectors so that the bicycle can be seen very clearly by other motorist, and protective clothing such as long pants, jackets, and sunglasses. One should always think of safety first when deciding to ride a bicycle, especially in a heavily congested area such as New York City.

Many cyclists will explain that the main reason they do not wear protective bicycle gear is because it is uncomfortable. No one likes to be covered up a lot while they are riding down the street. They claim that it interferes with their ability to properly maneuver the bicycle and could cause them to wreck the bicycle. Other cyclists will explain that the reason they do not use the protective equipment when they ride a bike is because they cannot afford them. Some cyclists even claim that they do not have time to be bothered by putting on and taking off protective equipment. Life is a very fast and busy in New York City and most people do not have time to be bothered by protective equipment while riding their bikes. However, when these cyclists eventually have an accident, they will wish that they had the protective equipment. It is the lack of protective equipment that causes such a high accident and injury rate among bicyclists in New York City.

Because of the increase in head injuries and other serious injuries, many states have proposed and passed laws about wearing helmets and other protective equipment. However, these states have passed the law for children under a certain age requiring them to wear a safety helmet at all times when riding their bicycles. However, not all states have these laws set forth for adults and there are approximately fourteen states that do not have any form of helmet or safety equipment laws in place.

It is a law in New York City and throughout the state of New York for children under the age of 14 to wear a protective helmet while riding a bicycle. If a child is caught without a helmet while riding a bicycle, the police can confiscate the bicycle and place a large fine on the parents. However, once again, there is no law stating that the adult has to wear the helmet in New York City. Nevertheless, there are politicians, community businessmen, and other people from New York City who are working to create and propose stricter laws regarding protective equipment for people of all ages who ride bicycles. It is very difficult to understand why some states would require by law that children wear helmets while riding their bicycles, but not require adults to wear them. Of course, children are more likely to be involved in a bicycle wreck, but nevertheless, adults can also have bicycles wrecks as well.

Some people in New York City think that it is too crowded with automobiles and bicycles on the same street. Many times, there are instances where bicycles will dart out in front of cars without looking making the car stop quickly to avoid hitting the bicycle. Bicycles also tend to hold up and slow down traffic on busy highways and streets. Overall, it is dangerous for bicycles to ride in the streets of New York. However, “If the city’s population grows by a million people by 2030, as experts predict, cycling will be necessary to alleviate the strain on the roads and subways, she said.” (Melago). With this in mind, the people of New York City decided to construct special lanes especially for cyclists. These would be small, special lanes that are added to each side of the street. They would only be wide enough for a bicycle and they would be clearly marked as bicycle only lanes. Therefore, “On July 8, the city marked the completion of a three-year, $8 million project that brought the total miles of street lanes to 420, and Sadik-Khan declared New York the “bicycling capital of the United States.” (Melago). These bicycle lanes not only give the growing number of cyclist a safe place to ride their bikes, it also lessened the rate of bicycle/automobile related accidents. Today, one is able to see bicycle lanes on almost every major street throughout New York City and its surrounding areas.

With the increasing numbers of bicyclists on the streets of New York, the chances of having an accident on the bike also increases. Thus, the need for protective bicycle equipment is essential. Each year, thousands of people are injured or killed in New York City as a result of riding a bicycle in such a busy area. Many cyclists are not willing to wear protective equipment while riding their bike to prevent themselves from getting seriously injured, so the possibility of these cyclists obtaining a serious injury is very high. When people are riding bicycles, no matter if it is in a busy section of town or on a rural road, the need for protective equipment such as helmets, gloves, long pants, jackets, and sunglasses is warranted. One needs to assure their safety and the safety of others while riding a bicycle. Currently, there is no law in the state of New York that states that anyone over the age of 14 must wear protective equipment while on a bicycle. However, the need for such a law is very urgent considering the increasing number of cyclists on the streets of New York City.

On the contrary, some people believe that an enforced helmet law in New York would do much more harm than good. “Studies have determined that the helmet is even counter-productive, where it became mandatory, the use of bicycles decreased dramatically, and the less there are bikes in the streets, the less drivers get accustomed to their presence. Dutch do not wear helmets, and they know about bicycles.” (Alter) The people who choose not to wear a helmet are those who believe that they will not get into an accident. They are more concerned with how the helmet looks on their head rather than their own safety.

However, studies have shown that people who do wear bicycle helmets when riding have less accidents and they are more likely to follow the traffic laws. They seem to be more responsible in regards to safety and proper technique for riding their bicycle. “Cyclists who chose to wear helmets commit fewer traffic violations, have higher socioeconomic status, are more likely to wear high visibility clothing and use lights at night.” (Alter)

In conclusion, bicycle riding in New York City is the most popular mode of transportation among people from all ages, races, and backgrounds. Not only are bicycles more cost efficient, they also promote a cleaner, safer environment and provide a healthier life style for the cyclists. It is an ideal way to get from point A to point B. And back to Point A again. Today, it is estimated that more than 200,000 bicycles pass through the busy New York streets along with cars, trucks, and buses. Now is the time to consider newer, more stricter bicycle laws regarding protective equipment in New York City. Some people believe that such a law would convince people to stop riding their bikes. Others believe it is something that is definitely essential since the number of cyclists has increased dramatically over the course of the last few years. If people are going to be safe bike riders, then need to put safety first. One will have a much more enjoyable bike ride or commute when they know that they are protected, not only by law, but also by the protective equipment that they are wearing. “the effect of unpopular helmet laws on cycling activity is readily seen. In Melbourne, surveys were conducted pre-law in May 1990 and post-law in May 1991, at the same 64 sites and same observation times. Counts of child and adult cyclists declined by 42% and 29% respectively. In total, 297 more helmeted cyclists were counted than pre-law, compared with 1100 fewer cyclists. It’s as if the law didn’t so much encourage helmet wearing as discourage cycling”! (Alter)

It is very evident that the benefits of riding a bicycle in the streets of New York city far outweigh the disadvantages. However, in order for these benefits to be truly successful, one needs to ride responsibly and wear the helmets and other protective gear available where ever bicycles are sold.


Commuter Cycling Indicator

Bike Accidents New York

Bike Accidents cause by Road Hazards New York

Alter, Lloyd. Do Bicycle Helmet Laws do More Harm than Good? 04/29/09.

Melago, Carrie. Cyclists, Pedestrians, and Cars Clash over Biking Boom in New York City. Daily News. 08/16/2009.

Helmet Laws for Bicycle Riders.

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