There have been over 40 cyclist deaths in 2019 alone in New York City. In response to this consistent issue in the Big Apple, failed Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council have agreed to a $1.7 billion plan to construct 250 miles of protected bike lanes throughout the city, as reported by The New York Times. Though I believe that De Blasio has struggled to lead the city in the right direction, I appreciate his efforts to make the roads safer for bikers.
Protected bike lanes throughout the city will undoubtedly prevent many collisions between bikers and cars, as there will be a barrier between the two. This strategy has proved to be effective in Canada. According to an article from Vice, the former chief planner of Toronto said that “collisions have been rare where they’ve been put in place,” in reference to protected bike paths. Not only do these paths make the roads safer for bikers, but they also can speed up travel. After protected bike paths were established in London in 2014, “the city reported that they moved five times more people per square meter than the main road,” as stated by Vice. Perhaps we will see similar effects in New York City after the establishment of these bike paths.
By protecting cyclists, others may be encouraged to take to the streets with their bikes. Therefore, we may see a beneficial environmental impact with the decrease in cars on the streets and perhaps a decrease in traffic around the heavily congested city. According to National Geographic, vehicles are America’s biggest air polluters and contribute to one third of all U.S. air pollution. As many of us know, New York City does not exactly have high-quality air, with thousands dying prematurely as a result of the smog and toxins in the air, as stated by a State of the Planet article. If people know that the streets are safe for cyclists, perhaps more will ride their bikes to work. This would not only decrease traffic, but also gradually remedy the environmental issues within New York City.
Another solution to this issue could be to implement lower speed limits and social campaigns to make people aware of the dangers that can be posed to cyclists. After all, these collisions are largely a result of human error. Therefore, if drivers and cyclists stay focused on the roads, perhaps we will see a decrease in the number of collisions. In 2017, Paris established lower speed limits to ensure that drivers take to the roads at much lower speeds because the faster they drive, the more chance there is of someone being hit. In Paris however, lowering speed limits correlated with an 8 percent reduction in road fatalities in 2017 according to a Paris article.
Though the proposed measure may do some good on the streets, it will cost the city $1.7 billion. New York City is already $119 billion in debt, as stated by CBCNY. New York City also has numerous other pressing issues, including poverty, crime, low-quality public education and the rising cost of living. So I suppose that these are the imperative questions: is the issue of traffic violence more pressing than other issues, and if so, is there enough money in the already-strained budget of New York City to tackle this issue head-on?