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Analysis: Drivers are at fault for most serious bicycle-vehicle crashes

Bicycle use has likely never been higher in New York City. Many people are choosing to pedal around town, both to take advantage of fewer cars on the street and to avoid crowded public transport. The city has even established some temporary bike lanes to allow for the extra traffic.

Unfortunately, riding a bicycle is often very dangerous, but it is not the fault of the cyclist. Instead, it is reckless drivers that often injure and kill bicyclists.

Drivers are usually at fault

Crashes between bicycles and vehicles in New York City are common. In 2019, 3,835 of these wrecks resulted in a bicyclist being injured or killed, according to an analysis of bike crashes in NYC. This analysis uncovered some troubling conclusions.

That year, drivers were determined to be at fault in more than half of these crashes. In addition, when a driver was responsible for the crash, a bicyclist was far more likely to die than if the cyclist had caused the incident.

The type of vehicle matters, too. Cars and SUVs were involved in about the same number of crashes, but SUVs were responsible for significantly more cyclist fatalities. Commercial trucks and vans resulted in the most deaths.

Causes of bicycle crashes

The analysis also looked at the top contributing factors in these bicycle-vehicle crashes. These are essentially the cause of the crash. Distracted driving and failing to yield right-of-way accounted for about six in every 10 of these wrecks. Here are the top five causes:

  1. Driver inattention – 1,243 incidents

  1. Failure to yield right-of-way – 733 incidents

  1. Pedestrian bicyclist error or confusion – 449 incidents

  1. Traffic control ignored – 313 incidents

  1. Improper passing or lane usage – 254 incidents

Bicyclists are very vulnerable. There is little to protect them in the event of a crash. This means people in cars, SUVs and trucks need to be very careful around bike riders. If you were injured in a crash with an irresponsible driver, you can hold them accountable. While this will not undo what happened, it can provide real financial relief and a sense of closure.

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