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Is New York City Liable for Bike Accidents?

By Dansker & Aspromonte

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July 20, 2024

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Biking is a popular recreational activity and means of transportation in New York. It’s estimated that about 450,000 bike trips take place in the city every day—a 200% increase over the early 2000s. New Yorkers and visitors to the city take tens of thousands of rides on Citi Bikes each day, for a total of more than 14 million in 2016.

Though current data suggests that about three-quarters of a million New Yorkers regularly bike in the city, many cyclists, bike accident attorneys, and bike safety advocates argue that the city hasn’t done nearly enough to keep cyclists safe in the boroughs.

Bike Lanes are Controversial in NYC

Bike lanes, especially protected bike lanes, demonstrably improve bicyclist safety on city streets. With hundreds of serious injuries and a handful of fatal bike crashes each year, officials appear to be taking the problem seriously. DOT has rolled out a plan to add 50 miles of bike lanes each year. While bicyclists are happy to see some movement on the issue, it seems that no one is entirely happy with the plan.

Bicycle safety activists point out that only a small percentage of those miles will involve protected lanes, which they say have a far greater impact on cyclist safety. At the same time, some residents and local business owners have voiced concerns about the unintended impact of the bike lanes.

Dedicated bicycle lanes can slow down the flow of traffic. And, while some data suggest that bike lanes actually help local businesses, many New York business owners are skeptical and don’t welcome the changes. After 19 blocks of bicycle paths were added to the Upper West Side in 2011, a survey of merchants along the path revealed that about ¾ felt the changes had hurt their bottom lines. The most-cited complaint was the loss of customer parking spaces.

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Are New Bicycle Safety Measures Too Little, Too Late?

While the debate has raged on and authorities made the decision to commit to increasing bike lanes throughout the city, a bicycle accident case was quietly working its way through the court system—a case in which the injured cyclist had included the city of New York as a defendant.

The bicyclist, who was injured when he was struck by a car while riding across the Brooklyn Bridge, argued that the number of motor vehicle-bicycle accidents on the bridge in the preceding few years should have put the city on notice that conditions were not safe for cyclists.

Earlier this summer, seven years after the injury occurred, a court denied the city’s motion for summary judgment, saying that a jury should determine whether the city acted negligently in the implementation of its pedestrian/cyclist marking system on the bridge. If the city was negligent and that negligence was the proximate cause of the cyclist’s injuries, the city could be responsible for damages.

The ruling is important because, regardless of the jury’s determination in this particular case, it opens up the possibility of city liability for other bike injuries that could be attributed to the city’s handling of bicycle safety issues. This opens up additional opportunities for recovery when a driver is found only partially responsible for an accident or has inadequate insurance to fully compensate the victim.

Our Bike Accident Attorneys are Here to Help

Dansker & Aspromonte has a long history of success in handling both bike accident cases and injury claims involving the city of New York. If you’ve been injured in a bike accident, schedule a free consultation to learn more about your rights and the parties who may be responsible for your injury. Just fill out the contact form on this page, or call 212-540-2981 right now.

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