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Cyclists vs. Pedestrians

A recent study has revealed that approximately 1,000 pedestrians are injured by bicycles per year in New York State, something like two thirds of them in New York City.

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times were quick to pick up and run with the story.

The New York Post, a trash media tabloid, went to the extreme calling it a “Bloodbath.”

The 1,000 pedestrians were injured enough to visit a hospital for treatment, but on the other hand less than one pedestrian a year was killed by a bicycle. (3 in 5 years.) Hardly a bloodbath.

In the same one year period 15,321 pedestrians are injured statewide by motor vehicles, and more than 300 died from their injuries. So get hit by a car or truck and you have a 1 in 51 chance of dying, get hit by a bicycle and the chance of a fatality is less than 1 in 1,000.

The other thing these figures don’t tell is who is at fault in these accidents. There are so many people walking around with ear buds in, listening to music; or talking or texting on cell phones. There is no law against this as distracted walkers are mainly only a danger to themselves.

I can’t count the number of times I have ridden my bike on a local bike path when a jogger wearing ear buds, has done a sudden U-turn in front of me.

So many pedestrian will step off a curb first then look for traffic, or step out between parked cars.

Cyclists need to stay off sidewalks, and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, especially if they have a green light.

But if a pedestrian steps or runs into a traffic lane, there is little a car driver or bike rider can do. The bike rider with a little more maneuverability has some chance of going around a person, and if there is a collision with less weight and speed chances of survival are greater.

Let’s not forget also that a pedestrian can cause a cyclist to fall, resulting in injury; or in a worst case scenario knock the cyclist under the wheels of a passing car.

I will continue to be critical of scofflaw cyclists, because they not only put themselves and others in danger; they cause all cyclists to be viewed in a bad light, all are painted with the same broad brush. However, it serves no useful purpose for one group to constantly blame another; we are all just trying to get where we need to be.

It behooves those who are more vulnerable, namely cyclists and pedestrians, to ride and walk defensively, and to pay attention. Pedestrians should also realize that bike lanes and more cyclists have a calming effect on motor vehicle traffic. Less speed means less likelihood of a fatal collision.

Car drivers should note that more bikes mean less cars, less congestion; people can drive slower, use less gas and still get where they a going in the same time.

We should all realize that people driving, cycling, or walking can sometimes make mistakes. Some are reckless, but that doesn’t mean all are reckless.

The best any individual can do is try to be responsible for their own actions, and possibly be a little less critical, and a little more forgiving of the actions of others.



Reader Comments (14)

It is ridiculous how many distracted pedestrians I have to navigate around on a daily basis. They are texting and walking, and inevitably, are stepping out in front of me. It happens multiple times every single day.

I am getting to the point where I have no sympathy for them. I really think it is becoming an epidemic in our society. It is everywhere I go.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVelo Babble

My worst bike accident was hitting a ped. when he jumped from pavement to bike path without looking. He learned what 15 stone at 15 mph means in terms of kinetic energy (it knocked him out) and I needed new forks (and a new wheel just in case). I suffered sprained wrists and grazing. He went to hospital in an ambulance. I now keep off cycle paths as much as possible. Less risk and less abuse.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHG

The linked article about people injuring themselves while walking and using cell phones is scary when you realize people are so distracted they walk into stationary objects. And people have this same level of distraction while driving.

September 22, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I get a kick when I see two people on their cell phones walk into each other (and there are still people who argue against banning cell phone use in cars!). Yes the distracted pedestrian is a major problem on bike paths.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

I also rarely ride mixed use paths. Same reasons and others. People with kids and no control over them. Cyclists who think that they are now safe to ride however on the path. Early mornings are the best times out before the rest. A major problem I have with mixed use trails here is that they don't going the direction I need. Most trails here run generally from the bay to the foothills while I am heading perpendicular to their routes.

Bike riders need to follow the law as closely as possible. Pedestrians need to be more aware of their surroundings. Drivers need to respect the law also and other legal users of road space.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

The basic problem is that bicycles are vehicles, and pedestrians are not. Peds can (and do) stop and start instantly, make instant 90 degree turns, and move forwards and backwards at will. The rules (both of law and physics) of pedestrian operation are vastly different than the rules for bicycle operation. The ped fatalities and serious injuries have usually been a result of a cyclist moving at a "relative" high speed, encountering a pedestrian coming out from behind an obstacle or doorway in a 90 degree collision.

Sidewalks are for pedestrian use only. Sidewalk cycle-tracks will raise the number of serious injuries.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPM Summer

I was riding home today from the Gare du Nord (Paris) along the Boulevard Magenta, which has bike paths that have been marked on the sidewalk. For much of the ride I was dodging pedestrians who wandered into the path, or simply seemed like they were about to do so. There is a bus corridor along the street but unlike most Parisian bus corridors, it is closed to cyclists. A bad call, I think.

On the other hand, my only near-miss today was caused by another cyclist. I was riding on a separated bike lane on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir and swerved a few inches to the left to avoid a bit of debris, just as another cyclist was passing me. He had not signaled his presence. The lane is only about a meter (three feet) wide, and I had panniers on my rack, so he had a lot of gall to try that maneuver. I was so astounded by his cursing that I didn't respond as I ought to have done. I was using a mirror but at the moment my attention was on the road debris, not what was behind me.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Ogilvie

Well said! I especially loved the comment about the non-existence of distracted pedestrian laws haha... We may need to look into getting some of those enacted!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Christensen

You still have it backwards: the onus of care is on the person in the heavier, and more lethal, vehicle. That is the legal approach in Japan and in the Netherlands, and it works. They have a fraction of the traffic fatalities of English N.America. All else is bunkus.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMr.S.

I'll add your opinion pieces have gotten tedious, in contrast to your excellent historical and mechanical pieces. I will no longer be visiting.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMr.S.

Ed note: Dave, I won't be at all offended if you delete my comment.

The onus of care may be on the person in the heavier and more lethal vehicle, Mr. S., but that doesn't absolve the pedestrian or the cyclist from ambulating defensively. It's the same for the driver sharing the road with vehicles much larger and heavier than the vehicle being driven. I drive defensively around SUVs, semi-tractor trailers, cement trucks, and garbage trucks. I'd be crazy not to.

You can't suspend the laws of physics no matter how dearly you'd like to. Momentum is a real phenomena, and one's agility in traffic - no matter where that traffic is found - is constrained by one's momentum. That's why we have this highly ritualized way of navigating our shared space. Whether we're talking about sidewalks, multi-use trails, roadways, or bike lanes, there are "ways of going" which - if observed - are intended to keep us all safe.

In my opinion, ear buds ought to be saved for the gym, or your easy chair. And, cell phones when you truly aren't doing *anything* else at all.

The only problem I have with Dave's opinion pieces is that, unfortunately, he's likely preaching to the choir. Still, it doesn't hurt me to be reminded that attentiveness and basic courtesy rulz.

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

Dave, I like your opnion pieces. Keep up the good work.

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRLD

I only delete spam and occasionally something I consider rude or off topic; your view on defensive riding reinforces mine exactly. I realize I am for the most part preaching to the choir, but there are a few out there who haven’t joined the choir yet. Plus I feel if a few of us keep putting the message out there it will eventually reach the main stream media.
Your support is appreciated; I know people like the tech and history stuff, but after 6 years of writing here I have covered most of it, and it is tough to come up with interesting topics twice a week.

September 24, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

In my world, there are not too many people who aggregate information about what will soon become a very critical issue in built-up urbanopolises.

Dave, I'd like to thank you for them. What made Mr S spit the dummy mystifies me, but then, I really don't care. Your point about the blog is 100% solid. One of my favourite local blogs, a civil and stimulating read most days, attracts similar derision from time to time from rogue commentators. Their sad stabs say much more about them than the blogholder IMHO.

Keep it up!

October 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commentervia collins

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