Getting from place to place on a bike in NYC can be exciting — and dangerous. Like the cars, buses, and taxis on the road, you are a moving vehicle too. Learn how to ride safely around campus.
Understand the risks of riding
Stats derived from NYC Department of Transportation 1996-2005 report on cyclist crash data.
- Nine out of ten accidents happen at intersections. 89% of all major bike accidents occurred within 25 feet of an intersection.
- You’re five times more likely to get hurt riding on major roads. 52% of all serious accidents occurred on arterial roads (boulevards and avenues) which comprise just 10% of the city’s road stock.
- Big trucks are big problems. 32% of all major bike accidents involved a large truck or bus, despite such vehicles comprising a mere 5 to 17% of vehicles on the roadway at any given time.
- Almost all accidents are the result of human error. 95% of crashes with documented factors were the result of human error, such as inattention or disregard of traffic controls. Environmental factors, such as obstruction, glare, and slippery pavement, accounted for 3% of contributing factors.
- Parks, pedestrians, and bikes don’t mix. 36% of serious collisions with pedestrians occurred around the perimeters of parks.
- Show some respect; watch out for your elders. 73% of pedestrians struck were age 60 or older.
What can I do to be safe?
- Always look both ways, even when crossing one-way streets. 7% of cars run red lights. Green does not always mean go. Use your eyes to scan the intersection for oncoming traffic every time. You never know when a quick glance will keep you from colliding with a delivery cyclist riding counter to the flow of traffic.
- Wear a sexy helmet. The 3% of the time when environmental factors intervene to cause an accident, you’ll wish you had a helmet. A whopping 73% of accidents involve head trauma of some sort.
- Stop at reds, enjoy life around you. You’ll avoid the chance of a $190 fine while gaining the chance to score a date with the biker next to you, strike up a fulfilling conversation, or see the most awesome bank heist ever. You’ll also develop a good image for bicyclists citywide.
- When stopping, line up prominently at the light and keep the crosswalk clear. If you pull ahead of the crosswalk to wait for the light, make sure your rear wheel is not in the way of pedestrians.
- No bike lane? Drive your bike like you would a car. If a bike lane is absent or obstructed on the block, claim a lane of traffic. It’s your right as a vehicle in New York City to take a full lane of traffic while riding.
- Don’t be a salmon; ride with the flow of traffic. You’ll get to your destination legally and more quickly than riding upstream against oncoming cars.
- Ride on the driver’s side when on one-way side streets. It will increase your visibility to drivers and give them a better sense of how much room they need to pass safely.
- Doors are no fun, keep away from them. Keep four feet between you when riding along parked cars. You’ll also avoid jaywalkers.
- Ride predictably and keep a presence. Don’t weave in and out of traffic or slalom around stopped cars. Take a straight line and stay visible. When changing lanes or merging, check your blind spot behind you and throw out a hand signal to let drivers know your intentions.
- Keep your peripherals around pedestrians. Keep your peripherals on greenways and cycle tracks. Pedestrians adjacent to the lane sometimes step into bike traffic without looking and cause both rider and walker headaches.
- How to perform the safest left turn: Proceed through the light to the opposite corner of the intersection and wait for the green light going the other way. (If heading north, wait at the northeast corner for the westbound light.) This is called a “Copenhagen left.”
- If confused, just “drive your bike.” Remembering all the details can be tough and overwhelming. When in doubt, think about what you’d do if you were “driving” your bike. It all comes down to being as predictable, courteous, and present in mind and body as possible.