Citi Bike's First Five Months: Zero Deaths, 93,000+ Members

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 - 11:28 AM

Chambers Street and the Hudson River bike path, June 2013 Citi Bike riders wait to return bikes at a full docking station. (Alex Goldmark)

Citi Bike's tens of thousands of annual members have ridden nearly 10 million miles in five months -- without a fatality.

That's according to the New York City Department of Transportation, which is touting its street safety record in a newly released report.

"Since 2000," states the DOT in one section, "there has been a 72% decrease in the average risk of serious injury experienced by cyclists in NYC, while the number of trips by bike has nearly tripled."

And that's with larger-than-anticipated numbers of bike share users. (The city's initial goal for Citi Bike's first year was to attain 60,000 annual members. According to Citi Bike data, the system had over 93,000 members as of November 1.)

That safety number is a testament in numbers, according to Paul Steely White, the head of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.

"When you triple the number of ambient cyclists in a city," he said, citing public health research, "you tend to at least halve the crash rate."

White credited the NYC DOT with re-engineering streets and emphasizing safety during the tenure of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, but added that the city is also experiencing something of a culture shift.

"It could be that drivers are becoming more aware of seeing bicyclists and accept them as a legitimate part of the street network," he said.  “When they do view them, they treat them as legitimate road users, not alien outliers.”

Another safety effect of the increase in cycling: the more people that bicycle, the more likely that a car driver is also a cyclist -- giving the person behind the wheel more empathy for the bicyclist riding alongside. 

And as opposed to some who feared the impact of thousands of less experienced cyclists on the road (remember the video op-ed of the Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz, who said the "most important danger in the the bicyclist"), White says the slower, upright Citi Bicyclists have rubbed off on other bicyclists.

"They’re riding more slowly, stopping at lights," he said. "It’s more of a civic riding culture, you’re riding more slowly, more predictably.”

But the Citi Bike safety stands in contrast with several recent pedestrian fatalities, including the death of a nine-year old in Brooklyn last weekend struck by a driver who jumped a curb after going the wrong way down a one-way street.

Although traffic fatalities have been on the decline overall, they are almost intersecting with the city's homicide rate. As of the end of September, there were 203 traffic fatalities in the five boroughs -- just 39 fewer than the number of murders in the same period.

White says this points to a need to rethink policing priorities to focus on cars that speed and fail to yield to pedestrians. "We need a sea change at the NYPD," he said. "They must enforce more against reckless driving."

(There's one big reason that enforcement doesn't happen at the rate some advocates would like to see: as TN reported last week, one former city official laid the blame at the feet of ticket revenue. New York City keeps all of the revenue from parking tickets, but splits the proceeds from moving violations with the state.)

But White said the city is at a tipping point.

"Reckless driving is now being stigmatized the way drunk driving was 30 years ago," says White. "All eyes are on the (next ) mayor-elect. Will he task the NYPD with investigating many more serious crashes? Will he task the NYPD with data-driven enforcement policies?"






Comments [9]

Bronxite from NYC

Bicycles are not motor vehicles (at least those without motors) and the laws should be dictated differently towards this mode. Bicycles should only be required to yield at red lights and stop signs. It makes no sense to sit and wait. The danger is minimal, notice the millions of Citi Bike rides without fatalities. Bicycles have different movement characteristics versus automobiles. They can stop much more rapidly and have significantly greater visibility and maneuverability.

That being said, enforcement should focus on salmon (wrong way riders) due to decreased reaction times, sidewalk riders (which is way less common then stated online, you cannot get to a reasonable speed on sidewalks due to obstacles (e.g. PEDs), and a lack of lighting at night.

Helmets shouldn't be required because it reduces usage. A lot of people use Cities Bike for example at random to run errands.


Dec. 13 2013 02:29 AM

my name is eleniNYC and
I am a Reformed Reckeless Pedestrian -- I assure you I no longer purposely sin in vain w/ my J-walking and walking in bike lanes and anywhere else I don't belong [at least not intentionally -- I blame cyclists for that].

I must call on those who do and complain about cyclists. Well if you're in their space then the pedestrian is wrong. but what about cyclists who still insist on riding on sidewalks thus forcing the pedestrian onto a cyclist lane. Why is it that pedestrians are immediately villified when cyclists break traffic laws in the most egregious ways possible then say it was the pedestrian's fault?? very few of us-- I mean less than 1% of pedestrians actually talk on the phone while crossing the street. But typically we don't start hitting speed dial until we have almost completely crossed the street -- with the light. if we seem to be going against the light it's only because the DOT refuses to accept the fact that some streets, like 57th Str., are too wide to cross in under 10 seconds. Listening to phone ring OR retrieving the voice mail does NOT constitute walking - talking. sometimes people are receiving directions to a place as they are walking there, especially If they don't know the neighborhood and they are on their way to an apointment or pick-up, is that their fault?? NOPE.
"Salmoning" as a cyclist and fast food delivery, on the otherhand, is deliberate and reckless.

We [Americans] have a culture of Zero accountibility interms of ownership of action. THat is just a fact.
Cycling as a new cuture and as an alternative to the MTA, Taxi service is all fine and dandy. But those who choose to cycle more than take other modes of transportation still need to heed to the traffic laws and wear a helmet.

Another big sticking point is that ideas, as well intentioned as they are, are NEVER thought through especially in NYC. Most think there is always room for another idea. This might be true, but without an actionable plan, it might as well stay on the fly paper it was thought on.

Nov. 06 2013 08:26 PM
TOM from Brooklyn

It would appear that NYC DOT is trying to write up their legacy before the next admin gets to look through the files.

Nov. 06 2013 04:09 PM

Marty, for the record, there's no law requiring helmets for people over age 13. While I fully agree that cyclists should respect and yield to pedestrians, some respect from pedestrians would be nice too. I can't tell you how may times they've walked directly in front of my moving bicycle mid block, with their noses firmly pressed in cell phone. It's to the point where I've taken to say thank you when pedestrians actually look up and take notice when I pass.

Nov. 06 2013 12:29 PM

@L_E_I That word Shill, I fear you do not know what it means.

@Marty, What about the pedestrians that wander into the bike lanes or the pedestrians that walk against the light? Aren't they ignoring the laws too?

Nov. 06 2013 10:55 AM
Midtown Apt from NYC

Reckless driving is bad. And so is reckless cycling. The amount of salmoning has increased dramatically, and is a serious safety issue for other cyclists (as well as for pedestrians and cars!). As a cyclist, I find it distressing how little concern salmoners have for anyone but themselves.

Nov. 06 2013 10:49 AM

I didn't know that Ms. Hinds and WNYC now shill for CitiBike and CitiCorp. Can't blame you though, since no one is pledging to this station with your bias reporting.

Nov. 06 2013 10:06 AM
Marty from west 27th and 8th, manhattan

The perspective of the walking citizen seems to never be considered. Citi-bikers and non-Citi-bikers ignore the laws. Running lights, ignoring stop signs, heading the wrong way in bike lanes, riding on sidewalks, riding without helmets, and more. Visit Chelsea at 26th or 27th and watch. Tabulate. Keep score. Then report that side of the story! Pedestrian safety, especially of seniors, is at risk.

Nov. 06 2013 08:23 AM
Allen Cohen

I got to wonder how many pedestrians using cell phones were killed?
cause the amount of them walking into bike lanes without looking is phenomenal!

the other phenomena which I notice is the increased amount of dangerously aggressive cycling from men wearing campari racing suits... they do not seem to appreciate the increase in bikers, or appear aware they're in a public space filled with children and pedestrains... But appear to think they're on their own private racing track.

Nov. 06 2013 04:29 AM

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