When Bicycles Hit Pedestrians

When Bicycles Hit Pedestrians | Pintas & Mullins Law Firm

A death in New York City’s famed Central Park is once again sparking the debate over bicyclist and pedestrian rights. As commuter biking gains popularity throughout the country, the numbers of accidents is rising as well. Bicycle accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report on this recent death and how the issue is impacting us here at home.

This most recent crash occurred between a 58-year old mother and 31-year old cyclist in Central Park, around 4:30 in the afternoon. The mother died three days afterward from severe head trauma, and the incident is being investigated. This is actually the second devastating crash between bikers and pedestrians in the Park since August.

Both occurred in broad afternoon daylight in Central Park, and both cyclists were swerving to avoid others on the path. The first fatal accident, on August 3rd, happened when a 17-year-old had to swerve into the running lane to avoid a pedicab, hitting a 75-year-old man. He was training for the New York Marathon and died two days after the impact. The second crash occurred under similar circumstances: the 19-year-old had to swerve into the running lane to avoid a group of walking pedestrians. He told reporters that it was an unavoidable accident.

Two eerily similar tragedies in two months points to a system that needs reworking. TheNew Yorker‘s Samuel Freedman claims that these deaths expose two harsh realities of New York City’s bike culture: that city officials ignore, or make inadequate efforts to enforce traffic laws in cyclists, and that bikers use this to their advantage, refusing to obey signs, signals and laws.

He cites statistics from the city’s Department of Transportation, which recorded more than 300 bicycle/pedestrian crashes in 2013. Despite an increasing trend in accidents the NYPD’s enforcement on bikers is actually declining: in the first half of 2013, police issued over 11,400 summonses to bikers. During the first half of 2014, however, NYPD issued only about 3,300.

Central Park’s paths were not designed to accommodate high-speed bikers, walking pedestrians and runners all on the same surface. Although there are dozens of signs, lights and painted symbols on the lanes indicating which lanes are to be used for what, the rules are more often than not, ignored. Tourists are often seen going the wrong way in the wrong lane, without anyone correcting them. Habitual bikers often speed through red lights, or pass on the left side without first looking behind them.

From New York to Chicago, Bikers Face Scrutiny

Here in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is making concerted efforts to make the city the most -bike friendly place in the country. In the two years since his election, Emanuel has installed protected bike paths (meaning separated from car traffic by physical dividers), widened roads, and of course, the new Divvy bike sharing program.

Upon announcing his plan, Mayor Emanuel and his staff were adamant in avoiding the pedestrian and driver backlash that is evident in New York City. There have been several unsuccessful lawsuits filed against the City for putting in bike lanes in places like Park Slope, Brooklyn, where residents are more concerned with finding jobs than bike path expansion. Officials nationwide state that they see the most backlash from bike path installation in neighborhood that are struggling financially.

A perfect example of this is the uproar surrounding plans to change the roadways in Chicago’s 45th ward, which covers Gladstone Park and Portage Park on the northwest side. The city has proposed three potential designs for the Milwaukee Avenue corridor, one of which includes protected bike lanes. More on this so-called Milwaukee Route Project can be found here.

Legally, bicyclists need to use whichever path that is provided for them, whether that be a protected lane, a buffered lane (where the lanes are painted on but not physically divided), or on the roadway itself. Cyclists are not allowed to use sidewalks, with a few exceptions such as the path running along the lakefront. If someone is injured in a bicycling accident, the first piece of information to remember is where, specifically, the accident took place. The precise location can largely determine the injured’s right to file a claim. 

Part of the responsibility of living in a large urban city like Chicago or New York is sharing public space. Generally, automobiles should yield to cyclists and cyclists should yield to pedestrians. There are many other statutes governing the behavior or cyclists on the roads, although unfortunately, not many people are aware of them until they are facing a lawsuit of some kind.

Our team of bicycle injury lawyers is currently investigating cases of severe injury from any type of accident. If you or someone you love was recently involved in a bike crash, contact our firm immediately for a free case review. We have a wide network of legal counsel that enables us to take clients from all 50 states, and we never charge any attorney’s fees unless we are successful in your case.