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Episode 36: Bicycle Accidents in New York City

Riding a bicycle in New York City is not for the faint of heart.

It’s downright dangerous.   These motorists want to kill you, well maybe not deliberately, but their conduct can lead to serious injury and even death.

Well, you know I have a special interest in brain injury, so before we get started, let’s remember, the best cure for a brain injury is prevention, so always wear a properly fitting bicycle helmet when riding.

But wearing a helmet will not prevent a crash between a bicycle rider and a car, truck, or bus from happening and will not prevent all brain injuries or other physical injuries like a broken bone or a dislocated shoulder.

Did you know that close to 5,000 cyclists are injured each year in New York City in crashes with motor vehicles? Even dedicated bicycle lanes do not prevent these crashes and resulting injury.

Some causes of these collisions include:

  • The failure of the motorist to yield the right of way at an intersection;
  • Turning unexpectedly into the path of a bike rider, often by failing to observe traffic signals and making right turn across a designated bike lane;
  • When a car or a truck passes too close to a bicycle rider, or attempts to overtake the rider, a collision can take place.  A careless driver may force a rider off the road;
  • Not paying attention to the road and becoming distracted;
  • And there is an additional frequent cause of accidents, called “dooring”.  This happens when a car door is opened into the path of an unsuspecting rider causing him or her to either be struck by the door, crash into the door, or lose control of their bicycle and fall.

There is a special law in New York City to protect bike riders from dooring incidents.  Vehicle occupants must look and wait before opening a car door.   It provides:  No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving  traffic  unless  and  until it  is  reasonably  safe  to  do so, and can be done without  interfering with the movement of other traffic,  nor  shall  any  person leave  a  door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

So when a driver or passenger fails to look before opening their car door and fails to yield the right of way to the bicycle rider before opening their car door or unnecessarily leaves a car door open in the path of an oncoming rider, liability will attach.

Did you also know that when a bicycle rider is in a collision with a motor vehicle, the rider is entitled to no fault insurance benefits which will pay for their medical care and expenses.  If they do not own a car, then the vehicle that causes the collision’s insurance company will pay these benefits.

But it is important to file a claim for these benefits without delay or you can lose this valuable benefit.

Bicyclists also have responsibilities when riding in New York.

The rider must obey all traffic laws

They must ride in the direction of traffic

Use available bicycle lanes and stay to the right of the roadway when these lanes are not available

He or she must yield the right of way to pedestrians

And are required to wear a helmet if under the age of 14, but it goes without saying that everyone needs to wear a helmet and if you are riding with your children, you need to set the right example. 

If you are in a collision with a car, bus, or truck, make sure that you obtain the name and license information of the driver and the plate number of the vehicle.  If you can, call the police so they can make a report and of course, obtain the names and contact information of any witnesses to the crash.  In New York City, there are many locations with video surveillance and your attorney should obtain a surveillance video without delay before it is destroyed. 

If you are hurt, it is important to seek medical care without delay.

Wishing you a safe bicycle journey in New York City and looking forward to speaking with you again on another edition of the Brain Injury Insider from New York City.

Audio version

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