NYC Adjusts Traffic Light Sequences to Save Bicyclist Lives


New York City’s latest move to deal with a spike in fatal bicycle accidents this year is to adjust the timing of green traffic lights on several city streets to keep cyclists rolling.

In a plan called the “Green Wave,” traffic signals that have been synchronized to accommodate cars and trucks traveling 25 miles an hour have been or will be timed for traffic traveling 15 miles an hour, the average speed of cyclists, New York 1 explains. Cyclists will catch a wave of green lights and glide through intersections without having to stop, The New York Times says.

The number of cyclists killed in New York City bicycle accidents totals 25 to date this year, which is 15 more than in all of 2018. It’s the most fatal bicycle accidents in NYC in two decades. On October 30, a 70-year-old cyclist crossing Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn in the crosswalk was left in critical condition after being hit by a minivan that allegedly ran a red light, the Daily News reported.

Other cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, Denver and Portland, Ore., also have calibrated traffic signals in favor of bicyclists. The Times quotes traffic analysts who say, “retimed signals help maintain a slower and steadier traffic flow and reduce potential conflicts, such as when cyclists run red lights or drivers race to beat the light at the next intersection.”

Until now, the City’s Vision Zero plan for ending traffic deaths and injuries has focused on redesigning streets to be more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, as well as enforcing traffic laws and educating the public. Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have agreed to a $1.7 billion plan to add 250 miles of protected bike lanes to city streets.

Changing NYC Traffic Signals for Bicyclists

The City has been changing the timing on traffic signals since late last year, according to The Times.

Bicycle-friendly red-light sequences are in place on a nearly half-mile stretch of Hoyt and Bond Streets in Brooklyn.

The 15-mph pace is soon to be enforced by stoplight timing on:

  • Clinton Street in Brooklyn
  • Prince Street in SoHo, Manhattan
  • 43rd Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens.

The Times notes that while bicyclists appreciate the slower pace of traffic, motorists have complaints. Aaron Villere, a senior program associate for the National Association of City Transportation Officials, said that retiming signals for cyclists in other cities has benefitted people biking, walking and driving.

Slower speed makes it safer and less stressful for cyclists to ride alongside cars and ensures a more predictable travel speed for everyone on the road, Villere said. Slowing down traffic can lead to fewer accidents and less severe injuries in crashes that do occur at the slower speed.

NYC Bicyclists Riding Out Year of Fatal Accidents

In July, three bicyclists were killed in New York in three car and truck accidents within a week. City administrators expressed alarm, and Mayor de Blasio said the city was facing an emergency.

Traffic officials said the problem was caused by worsening traffic caused in part by an increase of delivery trucks serving the booming e-commerce economy. Nearly half (45%) of all NYC households own one or more cars, and electric scooters and mopeds by the thousands have been added to City streets in recent years.

“There’s a toxic mix of population growth, industry that uses trucks, and Uber and Lyft traffic,” Jon Orcutt, a spokesman for Bike New York and a former policy director for the city Department of Transportation, said. “Twelve inches can mean the difference between brushing yourself off and being killed.”

The Times says a nationwide increase in bicyclist, pedestrian and motorcyclist deaths is due to passenger cars being safer than in years past and to the popularity of larger vehicles, such as SUVs.

Pedestrians and cyclists may not be as visible in traffic to automobile drivers who are looking for larger vehicles. Pedestrians and bicyclists suffer more serious injuries from the heavier impact of larger vehicles, as well as their propensity to run over people.

“Larger vehicles protect occupants of those vehicles,” Libby Thomas, a senior research associate at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, said. “At the same time, they might be associated with some of this increasing risk for people outside the vehicles.”

As fewer people are killed in car accidents, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists represent a higher proportion of traffic deaths. In 1996, deaths outside of the vehicle in motor vehicle accidents made up 20 percent of all traffic deaths; by 2018, the proportion had risen to 34 percent, according to a new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report about motor vehicle fatalities.

“Over the last decade, pedestrian deaths remained nearly the same in rural areas but rose 69 percent in urban areas,” the Times said. “Cyclist deaths have also risen significantly in those areas, up 48 percent over the decade from 2009 to 2018. Those increases far outpace population growth in urban areas.

The number of cyclist deaths rose by 6.3 percent last year, to 857, and the number of pedestrian fatalities grew by 3.4 percent, to 6,283, even as total traffic deaths decreased. On average, about 17 pedestrians and two cyclists were killed each day in crashes. Together they accounted for one-fifth of traffic deaths.

Contact an NYC Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you or your loved one has been hit by a car or truck in NYC and badly injured or killed, contact the New York car accident lawyers at David Resnick & Associates. You may be able to recover compensation for medicals bill and other losses, including the cost to repair or replace your bicycle.

At David Resnick & Associates, our NYC lawyers have extensive legal experience handling personal injury cases and can help you obtain justice for the harm someone else has caused you. Contact us today for a free legal consultation.

Author: David Resnick

Founder of David Resnick & Associates, P.C., a New York personal injury law firm in charge of providing exceptional and personal service to each of our clients in various areas including car accidents, slip and fall, wrongful death, construction accidents, and premises liability. David Resnick founded the firm in 1998 after working in large law firms where he saw a need for greater client communication and more personal care.

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