On May 27, 2013, New York City will begin its bike share program which will be called “Citi Bike”. There are a number of issues to be considered for all New Yorkers who will participate in this program.

Being a life long New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan, I have been riding a bicycle in Manhattan since I was a young child and it is something that I continue to do today.

As an attorney and a partner at Schulman Blitz, LLP, a New York City based personal injury law firm, I have handled many cases involving bicycle accidents throughout my career.   My law firm handles these cases from the very beginning – when the accident first occurs – through successful settlements and trials.

It is without question that riding a bike in New York City is a very dangerous thing to do.  I have handled countless lawsuits involving bicyclists and motorists, bicyclists and other bicyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians, and bicyclists and street defects, and I have seen many of our bicyclist clients sustain very bad injuries from these accidents.

The City of New York has recently added bike lanes to some of our streets, especially in Manhattan.  However, there are many, many streets, specifically cross-town streets, which do not have any bike lanes.

Drivers of vehicles in New York need to be more wary of bicyclists as there are about to be many more bicyclists on the streets due to the bike share program.  Motor vehicles pose tremendous dangers to bicyclists.  Drivers of motor vehicles need to learn how to share the streets with bicyclists.

There are many hazards which bicyclists will face as they are riding throughout the city.  The streets of New York are filled with countless potholes, cracks, defects, sunken streets, broken street hardware and manhole covers that bicyclists have to be concerned about when cycling.  These defective street conditions are extremely perilous for bicyclists. Schulman Blitz, LLP has brought many lawsuits against the City of New York on behalf of our clients who have been severely injured due to the streets and roadways being maintained in a negligent manner.

Curiously, the company that is in charge of the program, Alta Bicycle Share, Inc., has been required by the City to carry only $10 million in general liability coverage for every year the program operates.  It seems to me that the amount of required insurance is disturbingly low given the number of street defects, traps, downed street signs and other hazards that pose dangers to city cyclists.  One must also take into account the potential for City liability from City owned vehicles, such as garbage trucks, street sweepers and emergency vehicles that could collide with cyclists causing severe injuries.  Schulman Blitz, LLP has also encountered several cases where bicyclists are injured in areas where City officials were working and left behind construction debris and other hazardous material that caused injury to our clients.

In general, bicycling is healthy, fun and could lead to less traffic on our congested streets.  However, I have seen the devastation that occurs when drivers of vehicles do not respect bicycle riders and bicyclists do not watch out for pedestrians.  Another concern that I have with the program is that tourists are not familiar with our streets, and not familiar with traffic patterns, particularly in downtown Manhattan.  This unfamiliarity could lead to increased danger for bike riders and motorists.

If you do choose to ride, be safe, be smart, wear a helmet and ride cautiously.  And if unfortunately you are involved in an accident and are injured, give us a call and we will let you know what your rights are.