Bike-Pedestrian Safety Study Draws Jabs

UPDATED WITH CLARIFICATION ON FUNDING OF STUDY Nothing sets off a noisier debate in pro- and anti-cycling circles than a set of data.

So when two Hunter College professors, William Milzcarski and Peter Tuckel, on Monday released a study saying injuries of pedestrians by cyclists were higher than previously believed, both sides rushed to the battlements.

Biking advocates point out  that it was the same team who did the earlier study (Milczarski says the earlier report was based on a sampling of data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, not an actual count by hospitals).   The advocates said the study failed to point out that overall, biking has shot up in New York, but streets have gotten safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

For its part, the New York Post was ready with an editorial arguing that New York's bike share system will soon lead to carnage, and the study provided a ready supply of ammo for that argument.

Now the researchers' own colleagues are jumping into the fray, as the New York Times' City Room blog reports, arguing the study is "skimpy" and "an unfinished document."

What the study does do:  it counts injuries caused to pedestrians by cyclists, based on actual data from hospitals.

What it does not do:  say who caused the crashes, how serious the injuries were, or compare the figures to injuries of cyclists by motor vehicle drivers, or injuries of pedestrians by motor vehicles.

And though the study shows there's been a decline in injuries over four years, it doesn't highlight that in its summary.

By the way, Milczarski doesn't dispute that his study had a singular focus. He acknowledges the Stuart Gruskin foundation funded asked him and his colleague look into a particular line of inquiry (Gruskin was a pedestrian killed by a cyclist), and that the study analyzed the data on a specific question: how many pedestrians are injured by cyclists.

Milczarski says he'd thought it would be an easy question to answer, and that, unlike pedestrian-motorist crashes, it hadn't been studied.  "This was something no one knew about, he said in an interview.  It was like a mystery waiting to be uncovered."

(Editor's note:  The initial press release said the study had been done "on behalf of the Stuart Gruskin foundation." )

And, FWIW, Milczarki says he's pro-bike share, and intends to use the system when its up and running next summer.