An astonishing one-third of New York City bicyclists text while commuting around the city, according to a recent study by Hunter College. To perform the study, the local college observed 46 intersections in the busier parts of Manhattan (between 14th Street and 86th Street) this April. Researchers gathered observational data on cell phone use, helmets, and traffic safety. When it comes to cell phone use, Manhattan bikers appear unconcerned with the distraction – 30.2 percent of cyclists used their cell phones, according to researcher’s observations. This number is significantly higher compared to six years when Hunter College conducted the same study. In 2013, researchers observed only 10 percent of bicyclists using their phones.
According to the study’s researchers, the increase in “texting while cycling” could be caused by increased safety initiatives taken by the city, which include dedicated bike plans. On the whole, researchers say it is most likely just part of a larger trend. Peter Tuckel, Hunter sociologist and author of the study, told The New York Post, “There’s been an enormous upsurge in the number of people in general who use electronic devices – whether it be pedestrians, drivers, or cyclists.”
Despite the sharp increase in phone use, all other safety metrics show a safer city and biking culture. According to the researcher’s observations, approximately one-quarter of cyclists ran a red light in 2016 – down from the one-third of cyclists measured in 2013. Helmets are slightly more popular, too. Manhattan cyclists did not wear a helmet 57 percent of the time, down from 58 percent in 2013. According to NYPD statistics, cited by The New York Post, only 2 percent of pedestrian accidents are caused by a biker.
Bicycling has exploded in popularity across the five boroughs. According to data provided by City Hall, bicycle rides increased between 8 and 10 percent each year over the last decade. Politicians have struggled to keep pace with the boom by expanding the Citi Bike program and bicycling lanes throughout the city. The recent legalization of electric bicycles and electric scooters across the state will only increase pressure on City Hall. According to the Hunter College survey, politicians can best protect bikers by “[redoubling] the effort on protected bike lanes.” Bikers, on the other hand, can best protect themselves putting their phone in their pocket and their helmet on their head.
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