Twenty three cyclists died on New Jersey roads in 2021—or at a rate six times higher than in New York City. What does the crash data tell us about where we are and need to go?
Remarks to NJTPA, 1/10/22
Twenty three cyclists died on New Jersey roads in 2021 according to NJ State Police.1 2 That is five more than in 2020, and compares to eighteen across New York City.3
But while the two regions have similar populations,4 NYC’s bicycle mode share is six times greater (0.2% for NJ vs. 1.3% for NYC),5 6 which means that cycling in NJ is six times more dangerous.
If so, what factors influence the disparity? Are Jersey cyclists more reckless? Did alcohol and drug use play a role—as is emphasized by NJ State Police collection methodology?7
From the 23 crashes, I broke out the eight that occurred in North Jersey. Preliminary data lists only the road, date and time of day.8
But from just this we can determine that these weren’t recreational trips. Seven occurred on a weekday between 11AM and 4PM. The Saturday trip was along Interstate 78.
From Google Maps, we know that seven roads had no cycling treatment. The eighth, Rt 71 in Asbury Park, is an unbuffered bike lane that exposes cyclists to “dooring.”
We don’t know if the crashes occurred mid-block or at an intersection—State Police data omits GPS coordinates.
But the absence of bike infrastructure is itself significant. NYCDOT quantifies overall harm reduction of the City’s bike grid at 32%. Along major corridors, 60%.9
European cities—which make significant investment in bikeways that support double digit mode share—did not see an increase in mortality as cycling surged during the pandemic. Oslo and Helsinki didn’t experience a single cyclist or pedestrian fatality in 2020.10 11
Other Examples (of how data collection can enhance safety and grow mode share)
- Transport for London maps crash data as one of a dozen criteria to inform improvements to its extensive bike grid.12
- Bicycling Magazine were able to determine that 25 out of 29 cyclist deaths that occurred in New York City in 2019 involved commercial vehicles.13
- New York City and Washington, DC used crowdsourcing to locate bike share docking stations.14
- Starting in 2020, Outside Magazine has mapped every cycling fatality in the U.S., compiling data on multiple contributing factors.15 16 17
- The Federal Highway Administration maintains of list of proven countermeasures to enhance bike-ped safety.18
Another way to regard the comparison between New Jersey and NYC is to look at a NYCDOT chart showing the reduction of fatalities per 10 million cycling miles over an eighteen year period that coincides with the build out of the NYC’s bike grid.19
One might conclude that New Jersey is where NYC was twenty years ago. And if that is to improve,20 one place to start is with enhanced methods of data collection and analysis.
1 “2021 Fatal Accident Report” New Jersey State Police Fatal Accident Investigation Unit, https://tinyurl.com/2p922je4
2 “Fatal Accident Statistics for 2021,” New Jersey State Police Fatal Accident Investigation Unit, https://tinyurl.com/2p8se8sz
3 “Vision Zero View,” New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), viewed 1/8/21, https://tinyurl.com/53vfdntp
4 New Jersey’s population is 9.3 million, New York City, 8.8 million, Wikipedia, viewed 1/6/22
5 1-year estimate of New Jersey residents who biked to work is 0.2%, U.S. Census, Bureau https://tinyurl.com/9stpukc7
6 1-year estimate of New York City residents who biked to work is 1.3%, U.S. Census, Bureau https://tinyurl.com/2p8v7yhz
7 “Of the 18 pedalcyclist fatalities (in 2020), 16 were tested. Of those 16 tested, 5 tested positive for drugs only, 2 tested positive for alcohol only and 2 tested positive for alcohol and drugs. 7 were negative for alcohol and/or drugs and 2 were not tested.” ”Fatal Motor Vehicle Crash Data, 2020, P.20” New Jersey State Police Fatal Accident Investigation Unit, https://tinyurl.com/4xyr27mv
8 Cyclist fatalities, North Jersey 2021 (spreadsheet), Complete George, https://tinyurl.com/5n95b4hy
9 Safe Streets For Cycling—How Street Design Affects Bicycle Safety and Ridership, NYCDOT, 10/21, https://tinyurl.com/4jm82aa4
10 “Oslo Just Proved Vision Zero Is Possible,” Bicycing Magazine, 1/7/20, https://tinyurl.com/yscyn2t2
11 “Zero pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in Helsinki in 2019,” City of Helsinki, 2/17/20, https://tinyurl.com/yckvauzt
12 “Strategic Cycling Analysis,” Transport for London, 6/17, https://tinyurl.com/y4uzep4a
13 What’s Really Killing New York’s Cyclists, Bicycling Magazine, 2/28/20, https://tinyurl.com/ht73259a
14 J. Owen, C. Neita, J. Froelich, “Crowdsourcing Bikeshare Transit Planning: An Empirical Investigation of Washington D.C. and New York City,” University of Maryland, 5/15, https://tinyurl.com/2vtbrjw5
15 “What We Learned from Tracking Cycling Deaths for a Year,” Outside Magazine, 1/29/21, https://tinyurl.com/2p9fde88
16 “Why Outside Is Tracking Every Cycling Death in 2020,” Ibid, 5/4/20, https://tinyurl.com/2p8p6ubh
17 “Cycling Deaths, 2020,” Ibid, 5/3/21, https://tinyurl.com/2fmtsujv
18 “Proven Safety Countermeasures,” Federal Highway Administration, viewed 1/26/22, https://tinyurl.com/2p8b5emn
19 “NYC Cycling Risk Indicator,” 2000-2018, NYCDOT, https://tinyurl.com/2dtbyhv4
20 “Cycling in the City,” NYCDOT, 9/21, p.7, https://tinyurl.com/5xn43mba