In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in New York City, Mayor de Blasio encouraged New Yorkers to bike to work instead of using public transportation. Simultaneously, restaurant dining rooms were closed, forcing a greater number of food deliveries. Both actions have increased the number of bikers on NYC roads, and the number of biking accidents. Between March 9 and March 15th, the New York Police Department (NYPD) reported 80 bike accidents.
Bike accidents are up, car accidents are down
NYPD statistics show that bike accidents were up 43 percent between March 9 to March 15th from last year. Of these, 90 percent of the crashes involved driver error.
This spike in bike accidents coincides with a steep decrease in car accidents. With New York’s shelter-in-place order in full effect, fewer cars have been on the road as NYC residents abstain from non-essential travel. Motor vehicle accidents are down 33.1 percent from last year.
Food delivery workers
Many of the city’s bikers are food delivery workers. Along with the spread of the virus, numerous businesses have suffered and employees have experienced layoffs. Some interviewed delivery workers reported that deliveries for Grub Hub, Uber Eats, etc have recently become their sole form of income. Other newly unemployed New Yorkers are also becoming delivery workers for the first time as they search for ways to pay rent.
Some delivery workers anticipate an uptick in deliveries as New Yorkers tire of home cooking and begin to crave restaurant-prepared meals. If the delivery trend takes offs, we could see even more bikers on the road and perhaps even more injuries.
Could bicycle safety improve?
Some bicycle safety advocates are asking the city to create temporary shielded bike lanes. However, this measure may just remain an unfounded hope for bicycle enthusiasts as the city focuses its resources on fighting the virus.
If nothing else, hopefully this spike in accidents can shed light on the vulnerability of NYC bikers, and increase awareness of the need for bike lanes and other safety measures that could protect the bikers’ well-being.