A bicycle isn't exactly the safest means of transportation in New York City. In 2017, 4,490 cyclists were injured in collisions with motor vehicles across the five boroughs and another 27 were killed, according to public data. Slowly but surely, the powers that be are working to change that.
On Tuesday, the Department of Transportation and Streetsblog NYC announced a new pilot initiative that will literally give cyclists a head start on traffic at select intersections across the city. The program is an offshoot of the DOT’s Leading Pedestrian Interval system, which gives pedestrians a few seconds of extra time to cross an intersection before cars get a green light. At 50 of those intersections across the city, the department is simply installing temporary signs that let cyclists know that they can follow the pedestrian signals to also get a jump on motorists.
“This pilot program is a good step in the right direction and a long overdue victory for advocates and community residents from my district who worked tirelessly to ensure this initiative came to life,” City Council member Carlos Manchaca said at an event announcing the rollout. “I am confident that the New York City Department of Transportation will gather enough data to conclude that Leading Pedestrian Intervals are as effective for bicyclists as they are for pedestrians.”
The initiative is a part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign, which works to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists when it comes to collisions with motor vehicles. While the new signs at the pilot intersections are temporary—they’re slated to be in place until October—it’d be surprising if the DOT didn’t expand the program citywide. A recent study from the department found that 65 percent of cyclist fatalities and 89 percent of cyclists killed or seriously injured in vehicle crashes were struck at intersections. Giving bikes a leg up on cars could very well be one way to curb both of those numbers.
If the program is successful, it may finally be time for many New Yorkers to overcome their crippling fear of navigating the city’s streets on two wheels.