Do you bike as part of your commute? If so, then there’s a pretty good chance that the thought of being involved in an accident had crossed your mind, even before one took you by surprise. Although bicycling is extraordinarily common in New York City and its suburbs, the fact remains that it is an enormously dangerous endeavor. Motorists lack bicycle awareness, and far too often they refuse to share the road. This can lead to wrecks that leave bicyclists, including yourself, with serious injuries.
In fact, 2019 saw the most bicyclist fatalities on record, which increased by a whopping 21% from 2018. Making matters worse is the fact that more than 4,000 other individuals were injured in bicycle accidents in 2019. This is despite the city’s self-proclaimed efforts to reduce harm caused to bicyclists and pedestrians by lowering speed limits, redesigning intersections, and increasing the number of bike lanes throughout the city.
One all too common way that bicyclists are injured is by dooring accidents. This occurs when a parked driver opens his or her door without checking for a bicyclist, which can cause the bicyclist to slam into the cars door while traveling at full speed. This situation can also cause a bicyclist to swerve into traffic. While dooring can cause serious injuries, it can also be fatal. In fact, it caused more than 10% of bicyclist fatalities in 2019.
So what is the city doing to try to reduce the occurrence of or even eliminate dooring accidents? One way is through the promotion of the Dutch reach. This is a technique of opening a car door whereby a motorist uses their innermost hand to reach across their body to open the car door, preferably from the outside. This caused the driver to turn their body slightly, making it easier for them to look for bicyclists who may be coming their way.
There haven’t been very many studies about the effectiveness of the Dutch reach, but preliminary analysis from other countries looks positive. Although additional research is needed, trying anything is better than pursuing the current course of simply allowing dooring accidents to occur without any preventative measures whatsoever.
The city has been trying to raise awareness of the Dutch reach. It has utilized social media like Twitter and promoted videos on YouTube discussing the important impact the Dutch reach can have on bicycle accident prevention. However, none of the main mechanisms utilized by the city’s Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to reduce and eliminate all traffic-related deaths, are specifically geared toward dooring.
This leaves the door open for advocacy groups to lead the charge. In some cities, such groups have tried to pressure taxi companies, Lyft, and Uber to implement the Dutch reach into their training programs. Others are encouraging passengers to exercise more caution before exiting transportation services vehicles.
What does this mean for you? It means that it’s going to continue to be dangerous to ride a bicycle across the region for the foreseeable future. Although the city has made some progress in implementing safety measures, it’s not enough, and the pressure needs to be kept on those in charge to ensure that their eyes aren’t taken off of the end goal of protecting pedestrians and bicyclists.
In the meantime, though, individuals who have been injured in a bicycle accident may have legal options available to them to assist them in meeting their immediate and long-term needs, whatever those may be.