What's behind the alarming spike in bicyclist deaths in NYC?

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio recently declared a transportation emergency in response to the number of cyclists killed on New York City streets in 2019.

As of Monday, 18 cyclists had died.

The eighteenth was a female cyclist struck and killed by the driver of a commercial tractor trailer on Brooklyn Avenue.

Eyewitness News looked at historical data from the Department of Transportation and found at the current rate of cyclist deaths, around 30 cyclists could die by the end of the year.

That's more than three times the number of cyclists who died last year.

"That's absolutely unacceptable," said NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill during a recent press conference. "When a bicyclist is killed, we have to make sure we show some sensitivity here."

Several factors could be contributing to the rising number of bicyclist deaths.

Overall, the number of cyclists on NYC streets is increasing.

Eyewitness News looked at daily Citi bike usage data and determined that in the second quarter of 2019, daily trips on Citi Bike were up about 12% compared to last year.

Availability of bike lanes is also an issue. New York City has more than 1,200 miles of bike lanes, according to the Department of Transportation, and 480 of those miles have special barriers to protect bikers.

Bike lanes only cover about 20% of NYC streets, and protected bike lanes are in even shorter supply, stretching across just about 8% of NYC streets.

Even in places with bike lanes, cyclists complain using the bike lanes isn't always possible because cars are using the lanes for parking.

The Police Department said it has issued more than 33,000 summons in 2019 to vehicles blocking bike lanes. And now they are promising to step it up.

Traffic enforcement officers have been told to focus summons on bike lanes, according to the NYPD.

Cyclists have also contributed to the problem by ignoring the rules of the road. But the NYPD says cyclists aren't their biggest problem.

Police said just about 3% of the moving violations handed out by officers last year went to cyclists.

"There is a huge difference between a 3,000 pound vehicle and a 20 pound bicycle," Commissioner O'Neill said.

O'Neill also called on all New Yorkers to get better about sharing the road.

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