While safety measures taken toward a goal of Vision Zero—an initiative to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2024—are reducing New York City pedestrian and motor vehicle deaths, bicycle fatalities are more than twice what they were last year. With 22 fatalities by September, this is proving the deadliest year in some time.

What is causing the increase?

Bike deaths are rising nationwide. Partly, it’s simply due to increased usage. People are growing increasingly conscious of reducing their carbon footprint. For many, a big step toward being kinder to the environment is either taking public transportation or using alternative transport methods like bicycling. Bicycling also presents an efficient form of exercise for the health-conscious individual.

As initiatives like Vision Zero rollout, more bicycle lanes are built across the nation. This may give the impression of safety to the casual observer, despite the opposite proving true this year.

What is the city doing to solve the issue?

While New York City has constructed more than 300 miles of bicycle lanes to try to mitigate the issue, the lanes are disconnected and end abruptly, forcing bicyclists back into traffic unexpectedly. This can contribute to accidents, startling everyone on the road.

In response to this year’s dismal fatality numbers, New York City police are cracking down on bike-related ticket enforcement. In July, the department issued 5,673 tickets for cars parked in bike lanes—a 96% increase in enforcement as the same period last year.

Remaining challenges

One of the greatest challenges in reducing bike accidents and fatalities is that, in order to really make a difference, we need to facilitate a change in car culture. Cars need to make more room on the road, be more patient and drive slower.

However, you can’t change the culture overnight. Laws and police enforcement of bicycle-related violations will hopefully help. In the meantime, bicyclists and drivers need to be vigilant as they share the roads.

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