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Is New Jersey Too Dangerous for Bicyclists?

With an average of over 200 bicyclist or pedestrian fatalities each year, we have to wonder, “Is New Jersey too dangerous for bicyclists?” And, what are the best steps our state can take to prevent bicycle accidents?

For the most recent year for which data is available, the New Jersey State Police reports that there were 18 bicyclists and 180 pedestrians who died in traffic accidents in the state. Sadly, it seems, New Jersey is a dangerous place for bicyclists and pedestrians.

According to statistics from the New Jersey State Police, the ages of the fatal victims in the most recent year’s cycling and pedestrian accidents broke down as follows:

AgeCyclistPedestrian
16 and Under21
1712
18-2013
21-24011
25-29116
20-39224
40-49221
50-64853
65-79134
80 and Older013

 

Cycling deaths occurred in the following New Jersey counties for the year:

 

CountyNumber of Deaths
Burlington3
Camden1
Cape May1
Essex2
Gloucester2
Hudson2
Middlesex5
Morris1
Ocean1

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign published an eye-opening report that revealed that 19,551 bicycle accidents occurred in 13 northern New Jersey counties over a 10-year period, including 81 fatal crashes.

According to that report, Bergen County had the highest average yearly crashes (270) during the 10-year analysis period. Hudson County had the highest average yearly crash rate (number of average yearly crashes per 10,000 residents).

The 13 northern New Jersey counties, as a whole, averaged 1,777 bicycle accidents per year, or a crash rate of 2.84.

The five counties with the highest crash rates were:

CountyCrashesPopulationRate
Hudson239606,1993.95
Union195526,1433.71
Monmouth212636,6123.33
Passaic159492,3633.24
Mercer111362,0773.07

The Tri-State report went deep in its analysis and identified the most dangerous roads in each county based on the total number of crashes over a three-year period. The five counties with the highest total crashes in that period were:

CountyCrashesMost Dangerous Road2nd-Most Dangerous Road
Bergen789Route 505 (40 crashes)Route 507 (36 crashes)
Hudson643Rte. 501/Kennedy Blvd. (59)Bergenline Ave. (46)
Monmouth632N.J. 35 (57)N.J. 71 (56)
Essex532Rte. 506/Bloomfield Ave. (29)Rte. 510/S. Orange Ave. (25)
Middlesex465N.J. 27 (36)Route 514 (19)

Based on the statistics above, it may surprise one to learn that New Jersey actually is not the most dangerous state in the country for cyclists – at least in terms of the number of bike accident fatalities per million residents.

According to the most recent figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 18 fatal bike crashes occurred in New Jersey for the most recent year for which data is available, or 2.02 per one million residents.

That figure was well below the national fatal crash rate (2.62) and ranked No. 21 in the U.S.

(Florida had the country’s highest fatal crash rate at 7.56, while four states had zero bike fatalities for the year)

It is also worth noting that the League of American Cyclists ranked New Jersey No. 12 on its list of the country’s most “bicycle friendly” states. The organization has also placed six cities within the state on its list of 350 bicycle-friendly communities: Hoboken, New Brunswick, Lambertville, Ocean City, Princeton and West Windsor.

What Can We Do To Make Bicycling Safer in New Jersey?

As the Asbury Park Press investigation points out, there is great debate surrounding what New Jersey can do to make bicycling safer. The most contentious issues are:

  • Pass a Mandatory Helmet Law Currently, New Jersey law requires only children age 17 and younger to wear helmets. Somehave pushed for making helmet use mandatory for cyclists of all ages, citing studies that show that helmet use reduces the risk of serious head and brain injuries in a crash (including collisions with motor vehicles).

  • Enact a Passing Law – Efforts have been made to pass a law in New Jersey that would require motor vehicle drivers to keep a safe distance when passing cyclists. These are typically called “three-foot passing” laws. Despite previous efforts (A1577/1600), there is currently no law requiring this in New Jersey.
  • Improve road design – New Jersey has taken great strides to improve the design of its streets and highways so they are safer for bicyclists, as well as pedestrians.

While these issues continue to be debated, it appears that New Jersey is at least making progress in one major area: Improving the design of its streets and highways so they are safer for bicyclists as well as pedestrians.

Design-05

As the Tri-State report notes, New Jersey adopted a “Complete Streets” policy. Under this policy, any new road or road renovation projects must take into account the needs of all users, including cyclists. Additionally, the state’s Department of Transportation has held a series of workshops throughout the state with local leaders to educate them about the policy.

Certainly, if properly funded, a smarter approach to road design could go a long way towards preventing bicycle crashes within our state.

At Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., we will continue to encourage steps that can be taken to improve safety for bicyclists in northern New Jersey and throughout the state. We also will continue to protect the rights of cyclists who have been injured by negligent motorists.

If you or a loved one has been harmed in a bike accident in New Jersey, contact us without delay to receive a free review of your case and an explanation of your legal options.

This post was originally published in June 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in August 2021.