Study: A quarter of NYC cyclists do not stop at red lights; almost half do not wear helmets

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A rider on a CitiBike in Central Park. (Photo: Brenda Rivera, FOX 5 NY photographer)

A significant number of cyclists in New York City do not ride safely, according to a new study.

The study found that while a majority of riders in Manhattan follow the flow of traffic, nearly a third of them were observed wearing an electronic device while riding that could potentially distract them from their surroundings.

The Hunter College study was based on observations of 4,325 cyclists at 46 randomly selected intersections.

Only two-fifths of cyclists were observed wearing helmets, while a quarter of cyclists did not stop at red lights. Commercial cyclists were among the most likely to ride outside of the confines of the bike lane, with roughly one-quarter of such riders observed cycling in the street or avenue.

"The rapid growth of cycling in New York City will yield a lot of positive benefits, including better fitness for riders and a cleaner environment, and most cyclists we observed behaved responsibly," said Sociology Professor Peter Tuckel, who helped direct the study. "We hope increased focus on behaviors that put riders and others at greater risk will help create an even better and safer experience for all."

Gender-related findings that emerged from the study:

•    There is a sizable disparity in the gender of the riders (84.9% male vs. 14.9% female).  Commercial cyclists are overwhelmingly male (98.3%), and general/commuter cyclists are also predominately male (84.3%).  However, among Citi Bike riders, the gender imbalance narrows, with 75.4 percent male and 24.6 percent female.  
•    Female riders wear helmets more frequently than males.  Among general/commuter cyclists, helmet usage is favored by females by a margin of 52.1 percent to 44 percent. Among Citi Bike riders—approximately 70 percent of whom ride helmetless—the gender gap in helmet usage persists but is smaller (33.8% vs. 29.1%).