Over the last decade, the use of bicycles to get around New York City has more than quadrupled. Citibike began operating in New York City in May of 2013, and since that time, New Yorkers have taken over 50 million rides. Membership has increased from 5,000 to over 150,000 and there are now over 950 docking stations throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island and New Jersey City. That trend has been accelerated by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Nationwide, bicycle sales have doubled. In May of 2020, it became nearly impossible to by a bicycle at local bicycle shops in New York City. Lines snaked around corners in Brooklyn and Queens. Showroom floors where empty. New Yorkers, concerned about the spread of the coronavirus on subways and buses, rushed to buy bicycles ahead of New York City's planned reopening in June.
Along with this increase in bicycle use, there has been an increase in bicycle accidents. In the last month, the New York City Police Department reported a 7% increase in bicycle accidents compared to 2019, while simultaneously reporting a 60% decrease in total collisions. As more people get back to work in New York City and choose to commute by bicycle, the incidents of injuries resulting from bicycle accidents is sure to increase.
While New York City has continued to expand its installation of protected bike lanes, New York City still lags behind many major cities. Accordingly, bicyclists in New York City need to be extra-vigilant to avoid begin injured or killed by a motor vehicle in New York City. While the risk of bicycle riding in New York City has decreased when taking into account the increase in rides, the absolute number of fatalities has generally remained in the range of 150 deaths per year. Last year was the exception with cycling deaths nearly tripling. Now, with a surge of bicyclists on the roads, many of whom have chosen bicycle transportation as their primary means of transportation for the first time, we are concerned that the incidents of serious injury and death are likely to continue to rise.
To protect yourself, Bike New York recommends that bicyclist always ride in the same direction as traffic, never ride within the “door zone”, the area within 4-5 feet of parked cars, be extra careful at intersections, avoid making a left-hand turn from the right side of the intersection or a right turn from the left side and obey traffic signals and signs. Bicyclists should also remember that they are required to follow the rules of the road, just like cars. In New York City, a bicyclist must use a bike lane whenever available, unless at an intersection or where the use of the bike lane would be unsafe.
However, vehicles in New York City must also remember that on most streets in New York City in many circumstances, bicyclists have the right-of-way. Motorist have a duty to keep a vigilant lookout for bicyclists, to sound their horn to warn a bicyclist of danger and to avoid colliding with a bicyclist. Driving on or across a bike lane is prohibited, except when necessary to access a driveway, leave a parking space, cross or turn in an intersection, comply with law enforcement officer or avoid an obstacle. Bicyclists are permitted on both sides of most one-way streets.
When a car, truck or bus crash into a bicyclist, the bicyclist is often seriously injured. These accidents call for prompt investigation so that potentially valuable evidence can be preserved. The bicyclist may also be concerned about how they are going to pay their medical bill or replace income where they can no longer work. Fortunately, when a car hits a bicyclist, New York's no-fault insurance law will apply and the bicyclist can get these losses reimbursed through the car's insurance.
The lawyers and paralegals at Sullivan Brill handle its client's no-fault claims for free. The firm has decades of experience representing victims of bicycle accidents. In one recently resolved case, the firm recovered $425,000 on behalf of a bicyclist that injured his hand after getting hit by a car. If you or someone you care about has been involved in a bicycle accident, you should not delay in contacting an attorney. There are deadlines that must be met in order to obtain no-fault benefits and investigation that must be done to maximize the potential value of any claim against the motorist.