A magazine called Outside tracked bicyclist deaths caused by a collision with a car in 2020 and found that despite traffic rates and road miles traveled in the U.S. dropping due to COVID-19, death rates for cyclists remained high. As of Dec. 22, 2020, the publication reported that number at 675, a mild decrease compared with the previous two years – but in 2020 COVID-19 cut traffic congestion by as much as 41% for months at a time.
Experts blame numerous factors for causing this havoc on our roadways. For one, vehicles sold in the U.S. are not crash tested for pedestrian safety under the federal NCAP program, so automakers have little incentive to make their cars safer in that regard. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 1994 SUVs and large trucks made up only 40% of the cars on the road. It’s now 72%.
Outside also points to higher speed limits and increased rates of distracted driving – although the nation’s crumbling and outdated infrastructure also contributes. While NYC has been building bike lanes at a rapid rate, in the Bronx, four cyclists were fatally struck in a three-month time frame over the summer, and no additional bike lanes were installed there, according to Outside.
In December, NYPD Chief of Transportation Nilda Hofmann said that the NYPD conducted a four-week educational operation and ticket sting, starting on June 29, to crack down on speeding and reckless drivers, especially at high-crash corridors, such as the Bruckner Boulevard, where the city is lowering the speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour.
Pedestrian injuries fell 80% – from 16 to 3 – during the crackdown, which ended on July 26, but bike injuries didn’t budge, Hofmann said. The operation focused on dangerous driver behaviors, such as speeding and failure to yield. Outside found that cyclists’ deaths jumped in NYC, to 29 in 2020 from 10 in 2018. NHTSA also found that injuries to cyclists jumped 4.3% between 2018 and 2019.