The intersection of West 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue in Chelsea is the most dangerous intersection in New York City for bikers, according to a report by the website Localize.city.
You may remember an incident in June where a 20-year-old bike messenger was struck and killed there by a tractor-trailer. Another 21 bikers were injured or killed in crashes at that intersection between 2013 and 2018.
One reason for the danger, according to an urban planner from Localize interviewed by the New York Post, is that 23rd Street is a bit wider than the parallel streets, making it a major east-west route for trucks.
And, while Sixth Avenue has had a protected bike lane since 2016, that wasn’t enough. Protected bike lanes end at intersections, and the biker who was killed in June was struck by a turning truck. The urban planner suggested that a barrier at the southwest corner could protect bikers from left-turning vehicles at the intersection.
Bicycling is at an all-time high in New York City, and so are bicycle accidents. In August, the New York Times reported that there have been 19 fatal bike accidents so far this year — almost twice as many as the entire year of 2018. Mayor de Blasio has called this an “epidemic.”
Who is to blame? Certainly, the drivers who fail to notice bicyclists are at fault — and there are far too many of them. The sheer number of cyclists in the city should put drivers on notice that they have to remain vigilant and take extra care to avoid them.
The city itself may bear some responsibility if the streets are, by design, unreasonably unsafe for cyclists. In July, Mayor de Blasio has announced a $58.4 million plan called “Green Wave” to build more protected bike lanes and redesign intersections in the areas most prone to bicycle accidents.
Since 2014, 60% of fatal bike accidents occurred at intersections
Since most biking fatalities occur at intersections, Localize sought out the most dangerous ones, using data from 2013-2018. West 23rd and Sixth Avenue was the worst, with 21 crashes causing injury or death in that period. Two intersections tied for second most dangerous with 20 crashes each:
- Jay and Tillary streets in Brooklyn
- Atlantic and Bedford avenues in Crown Heights
The intersection of Jay and Tillary is especially busy with cars and bikes coming from the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. The urban planner from Localize commented that, in such a major bike route, the bike lanes need to be better marked and protected.
Regarding Atlantic and Bedford avenues, he said, “The bike lane on Bedford Avenue is not separated from traffic and is wedged between car-travel lanes. It’s unprotected on either side, and as riders cross the six-lane Atlantic Avenue, they’re expected to maneuver toward the curb. But often cars in a left-turn lane actually turn back into traffic, creating a risk for cyclists.”
Cyclists cite the need for change
Whether it is more protected crossings, barriers to keep cyclists out of harm’s way at intersections, or redesigning entire crossings, New York City’s bikers are calling on the city to improve the infrastructure.
Meanwhile, many are calling for more consequences for drivers who strike bikers — including criminal charges.
One way to hold drivers accountable is to file personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits. Forcing them to pay damages for their negligence or recklessness can at least ensure they understand the seriousness of their bad behavior.