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How dangerous is it to walk or cycle in New York?

Despite the numerous health benefits associated with walking and cycling, these activities put people at risk for serious injury or even death if they are hit by a car. The national statistics, as well as those for New York, are very concerning.

According to the Pedestrian & Bicycle Information Center, nationwide deaths and injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists resulting from car accidents increased alarmingly between 2006 and 2015. Pedestrian fatalities were up by 12.1 percent: 3,795 killed in 2006 and 5,376 killed in 2015. Estimated pedestrian injuries increased by 14.8 percent: 61,000 in 2006 compared to 70,000 in 2015. For bicyclists, fatalities were up by 6 percent: 772 cyclists killed in 2006 and 818 killed in 2015. Estimated cyclist injuries increased by 2.3 percent: 44,000 in 2006 compared to 45,000 in 2015.

New York statistics are no less distressing. The New York Department of Health reports that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injuries and injury-related deaths. For pedestrians, this translates to 312 annual deaths, 3,027 hospitalizations, and 12,506 emergency department visits. The highest death and hospitalization rates are for males 65 years and older. While the highest ED rates also are for males, the age demographics are considerably different, the top two age ranges being 20-24 and 15-19. For bicyclists, there are 36 annual deaths, 637 hospitalizations, and 3,795 ED visits. Once again, males are the predominant victims, with the 20-24 age group accounting for the highest death and hospitalization rates. However, the 15-19 age group accounts for the highest ED visit rate, followed by those 20-24.

Rather than giving up walking and cycling and their demonstrated health benefits, pedestrians and cyclists are urged to do the following:

  • Be extremely vigilant at all times.
  • Avoid using cellphones and/or texting.
  • Avoid walking or cycling while wearing earphones.
  • Wear reflective clothing at night.
  • Bike only in designated bike lanes where available.

In addition, it’s a good idea to attach a waving pennant and flashing rear light to the bike.

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