Bike-Pedestrian Safety Study Draws Jabs

Friday, September 23, 2011 - 03:10 PM

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.


Comments [3]


Actually, point #1 is easily determined using this data. In fact, the rate at which a cyclist puts a pedestrian in the hospital is significantly greater than the rate that a driver does. Per capita, cyclists cause more hospitalizations than drivers. It's an important, stunning point that pro-cyclist extremists are trying to spin out of the news.

The message is clear - cyclists need to take *more* responsibility for their behavior, not less. Ms. Bernstein astutely identifies the bunker mentality of the anti-pedestrian extremists, and it's extraordinarily discouraging that anyone might try and pull a shell game on this issue and deny the need for enhanced practices to ensure cyclists do not continue to disproportionately cause serious accidents with pedestrians.

Sep. 23 2011 11:42 PM

"Milczarski doesn’t dispute that his study had a singular focus. He acknowledges the Stuart Gruskin foundation funded a particular line of inquiry (Gruskin was a pedestrian killed by a cyclist)..."

That should discredit it right there. If the foundation funded "a particular line of inquiry," that's troubling. Sympathy for Gruskin should not overshadow academic integrity. It's possible to have sympathy for her and say in the same breath that she is biased. Hunter should have higher standards.

Sep. 23 2011 09:10 PM
Opus the Poet

Actually there are several lines of inquiry that need to be followed:

1) rates of wrecks by mode

2) severity of wrecks by mode

3) proportion of serious injury and death by mode
3a)comparison of serious injury/death to treated and released by mode

This would resolve the current ridiculous situation of cyclists getting fined at the same cost as drivers of semi trucks for minor infractions that while deadly for motor vehicles are non-events for cyclists, or that are only dangerous to the cyclist.

Sep. 23 2011 07:47 PM

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