More on bike safety

Bike riding in New York City is increasing, but the number of biker deaths and serious injuries remain the same. The City, as noted last month, asserts that bike riding has become relatively safer. There is, however, no data available on less serious injuries or on pedestrian confrontations both physical and those that produce frighteningly close calls. The attractiveness of bike riding makes certain the continued growth in riding. The City, while encouraging this growth, could do even more for safety. Think of the recent initiatives that have produced aggressive laws and rigid enforcement for auto safety: new child car seats, seat belts laws, noisy back up signals, unblinking red light cameras, universal air bags, required driver training, and crash worthy car designs. Bike safety on city streets needs similar innovations. 

• Helmets: These are the equivalent of seat belts. They should be mandatory.

• Bright colors and lights: Bike riders are not always visible, especially when traveling closely between cars. New York City’s car lanes are narrower than the lanes found in most cities and on all modern highways. This puts a premium on visibility for pedestrians and for cars in tight turning situations.

• Wrong-way riding and red-light running: This should be a police matter of high priority. Bikes are silent and often speed faster than cars on the same street. Only police officers can stop a bike going in the wrong direction or weaving through pedestrians in the cross walk. For bike riders with drivers licenses, put points on their license and impose a stiff but realistic fine.

• Licensing bike riders and bikes: Register bikes on purchase. Put a license tag on all bikes. Make commercial delivery riders wear shirts with the names of their businesses on their back. Licensing would permit identification of violators and put teeth into enforcement.

Bikes compete for space on the City’s streets, but bikes are the tiniest percentage of all street users. The annual counts show that bikes total only 0.6% of commuters on a dry fall day. Encouraging the use of bikes on city streets where they are the least number of users demands that bikers adjust to the rules of the road, both for their own safety and for the safety of the vast majority of others who depend on the civility of the street for safety, enjoyment and commerce.

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