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Visually impaired in New York worried about cyclists

Posted by on Feb 15, 2016

Visually impaired in New York worried about cyclists

New York City is making massive attempts to reduce traffic on the streets, emissions and make New York residents healthier by improving conditions for cyclists. There are more cyclists on the streets than ever before and it has never been safer for cyclists, which is great. But with ten times more cyclists using the city than in the 80’s there are inevitably going to be more cycling accidents.

This matter has been brought up by many blind and visually impaired people in New York City. Cyclists are known for going through red lights (“Idaho stops”) when they see no pedestrians or traffic. Many blind and visually impaired people have stated that they would like cyclists to follow the same traffic regulations as other types of vehicles using the roads.

Vicki Acopulus, is extremely farsighted and has an astigmatism. The 72 year old has been knocked over by cyclists in Hell’s Kitchen by delivery cyclists twice now and is fed up. Both times she managed to walk away with only a minor personal injury and says this was down to the fact she was wearing a big winter coat which cushioned her fall.

Another lady, who is a resident of senior housing in Hell’s Kitchen, has been helping her friends out by running errands for them. She said they are scared of going out due to being knocked down by bikes.

Even though as a pedestrian it is far more lethal to be hit by a car, it is cyclists that cause most fear in visually impaired people in New York City. With around 53,000 adults in New York City between 18 and 64 who are blind or visually impaired and 172,484 people with difficult vision this issue needs to be addressed.

Cyclists might not always be aware that many pedestrians rely mostly on their hearing to get around the city and will not see a bike coming straight for them. Visually impaired people are taught to listen for cars and traffic however bikes are a lot quieter which makes life a lot harder.

Elderly are most at risk

Elderly people can suffer with conditions such as diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration and retinopathies which can all affect their eyesight. On top of this conditions such as osteoporosis can mean their bones are more brittle and brake easier.

All of these conditions mean that elderly people risk not only being more likely to be hit by a bike, but are also a greater risk of serious personal injury. Unfortunately serious bike collisions with elderly people can often lead to long periods of hospitalization or rehab and sometimes can even be fatal.

A recent decrease in tickets for cyclists

Although there is a record amount of cyclists in New York, the NYPD has seen a huge decrease in the amount of tickets issued for bicycle infractions. There were no tickets issued last year for not having bells, brakes, lights or reflector vests. There was also a huge drop in tickets issued for cycling on a sidewalk and even cyclists on commercial bikes received far less tickets than previous years.
While many cyclists are improving and complying with traffic laws, the increase in number of bikes on the road these days means there are inevitably more accidents.
The situation is clearly getting better. Yet if only 10% of the 50,000 cyclists in New York City are breaking the law by violating traffic laws, that still leaves us with 5,000 problem cyclists on the streets.

What is being done and what can be to improve the streets for the visually impaired?

• Education
o Educating cyclists on bikes laws, how to cycle safely and how to correctly use cycle lanes. Bikers are also often unaware just how many visually impaired                   people there are using the streets and are unaware of the dangers of their actions
• Improving street design
o Building more and more cycle paths designed to keep pedestrians and cyclists separate. Download maps of all NYC cycle lanes here
• Prosecution
o Ensuring NYPD are also up to date on bicycle safety and enforcing the laws

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