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Study: Bikes Hit More Pedestrians Than Previously Thought

The Gothamist: Study: Bikes Hit More Pedestrians Than Previously Thought

In the ongoing bike lane debate (now with added bike shares!) there always seems to be a little old lady who complains about being rundown by packs of rascally rogue bikers. But as much as they complain, there really wasn't much data available regarding how many bicyclist/pedestrian accidents actually occur. And there still isn't. But a new study from bike report happy Hunter College shows that there are definitely more collisions between the two groups than previously thought—though that number also appears to be declining (slightly).

The Hunter study uses hospital coding data in New York State to count the number of pedestrians (but NOT bicyclists) involved in accidents that required medical attention. In case you were wondering, E826.0 is the International Classification of Disease code for "pedestrian-cyclist accident." Anyway, right off the bat these numbers are going to be lower than reality since many people get right back up and move on with their day after a bike bump—yet Hunter's numbers are far higher than many had estimated. As the report puts it:

Earlier research, based on a sample of hospitals nationwide, estimated that there were approximately 1,000 pedestrians hit by a cyclist each year in the United States who needed to obtain medical treatment at a hospital. This present study, based on every hospital in New York State, has found that in New York State alone, there were approximately 1000 pedestrians struck by cyclists each year necessitating medical treatment at a hospital.

Between 2007 and 2010 there were 4,121 bicycle-related accidents reported in New York State, with the most accidents occurring in 2008 (1,112) and the least (927) happening in 2010.

While more male than female victims appear to go to the doctor after such accidents as out-patients, the numbers are almost equal when it comes to more serious cases that necessitate hospital admission. That is until you get to those little old ladies who apparently were not making it up: "Among out-patients in the highest age category, fully 62 percent are female compared to just 38 percent who are male. Among in-patients in the highest age category, the same story unfolds: 59.4 percent are female and 40.6 percent are male."

And where do these accidents occur? If you like to walk around the 10029 zip code in Manhattan, you may want to be extra cautious, as it is the most accident-prone zip code in the city. However, if you look at the number of hurt pedestrians by borough, Brooklyn (with 34.4 percent of the reported patients) is by far the most dangerous borough to walk near bicyclists in (Manhattan, at number two, comes in with 28.1 percent of the reported accidents).

While this Hunter study definitely shows that pedestrian-cyclist accidents are more common than previously believed, it is important to remember that it comes with no further information about the actual accidents—which is pretty crucial info. By the nature of the data set it is derived from, we do not know how any of these occurred, who was at fault, or the seriousness of the accident. And while, as a rep for Transportation Alternatives puts it, "no death or serious injury is acceptable on our streets, there is strong evidence that bike behavior is improving as bicycling is becoming more mainstream. According to the study, bike on pedestrian injuries declined 15% from 2007 to 2010. During this same four year period, cycling in New York City increased over 50 percent."

Further, TA notes that it is important "to put this in context. Motor vehicles are responsible for over 70,000 injuries every year in New York City, and hundreds of annual deaths. We can ignore that number and bash bikes, or we can get serious about safety and work to stop all traffic casualties."