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Are Bike Messengers Endangering NYC Pedestrians?

Are Bike Messengers Endangering NYC Pedestrians?

They might be delivering a food order as they whip past you, too close for comfort. It happens so fast that you only feel the sweep of air as you watch the already-distant figure pedaling away, leaving you in the dust. They’re making their living on New York City sidewalks and squeezing into momentary gaps in traffic before time runs out. We’re talking about bike messengers, the new-age thrill-seekers. Think we’re exaggerating? Just watch Premium Rush, an entire Hollywood blockbuster dedicated to a hardcore NYC bike messenger.

Bike messengers are a common sight on the streets of NYC, and while for some residents they are a godsend, for others they present a chronic safety problem. Nobody can argue that using bikes instead of cars is a nice nod to Mother Nature, as well as a faster way of getting around a city that’s jam-packed with traffic. Bike messengers get to avoid all the obstacles of a crowded road by maneuvering between the road and sidewalks. While this is a successful approach to make a timely delivery, it’s not as efficient in terms of road safety.

Many New Yorkers are now expressing their concerns, terrified of walking down the street because of the threat of aggressive bike messengers running them down. Bike messengers who speed, fail to signal, run red lights, and use the sidewalk in prohibited areas can easily cause traumatic injuries to a pedestrian.

Being hit by a bike messenger as a pedestrian is an especially difficult position to find yourself in, given that pedestrians being hit by bikes are not exactly a priority to the police. A pedestrian might suffer very bad injuries, yet have no way of identifying and catching the person responsible if he simply decides to bike away. One woman reported her harrowing experience to the Washington Post and called for identification number laws to be enforced: “I agree that professional bicycle operators should be required to sport racing numbers, especially since too many of them behave as if they are on the Indianapolis Speedway. If my attacker had worn one — even though he was racing away from me — I would have been able to read his number and report the lunatic.”

With a plethora of complaints from residents, why are bike accidents still such a problem? Partly because police often do not enforce the law when it comes to bicyclists.

What Is the Law on Biking in New York?

According to the New York Department of Transportation, riding a bicycle on a sidewalk in New York State is not prohibited, but many municipalities do have laws against it on certain sidewalks where signs are typically posted. New York City prohibits bicycling on sidewalks unless the rider is under 12 or the bicycle’s wheels are less than 26 inches in diameter. However, a situation where a bike messenger gets cited for illegally riding on a sidewalk is almost unheard of.

Who’s Responsible for a Bike/Pedestrian Collision?

If you are involved in an accident with a bike messenger, and he is at fault, you might be wondering if you should be filing a lawsuit against the bike messenger or his company.

If a bike courier is employed by an agency, it’s usually a good idea to go after the agency, since as a business they are more likely to be able to provide you with adequate financial compensation than the individual bike rider. However, if the courier is an independent contractor, you will probably be filing the lawsuit against the individual.

What to Do If You Are Hit by a Bike Messenger

Being hit by a speeding cyclist is no joke. The injuries can range from scratches to broken bones, head injuries, and in some cases, even death. Therefore, as a pedestrian, make sure you follow all traffic rules, pay attention to traffic signals at intersections, and avoid jaywalking to stay as safe as you possibly can. However, sometimes following every safety step you can think of won’t save you from being involved in an accident.

In the event that a bicyclist hits you:

  • Maintain your safety by making sure you’re not in oncoming traffic.
  • Call the police so they can come and take your statement.
  • Exchange information with the cyclist, if possible.
  • Get witness information.
  • Document accident site, signs, and personal injuries with pictures.
  • Go to the doctor and get an official exam.

Determining who to sue in a bike messenger accident while trying to tackle the intricacies of insurance policies can prove to be overwhelming, especially if you’re busy recovering from physical injuries. Our skilled personal injury lawyers at Pollack, Pollack, Isaac & DeCicco are here to help you. If you’ve sustained injuries from being hit by a cyclist, contact The Case Handler team at PPID for a free initial consultation at 929-223-4195. Our team will be happy to explain your legal rights and how to get you compensation.


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Adam Handler Esq.

Since 2004, I have been obtaining justice for accident victims by making sure they receive full compensation for their injury, medical bills and loss of income. To date, the total recovery for my clients has been over $100 million dollars. The law provides for a one-time recovery in personal injury actions making your choice of personal…

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Matthew Goodstein Esq.

I have been fighting for the rights of victims since 2008, whether it be for the rights of those injured in accidents, those injured in workplace accidents, or crime victims.  I believe that the best resolutions come from attorneys that are invested in their clients – and that is the type of relationship that The…

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