Your death is worth $6.1 million. So is your life.

In the 15 years from 1994 up through 2009, 5,746 people were killed in the five boroughs of New York City in motor vehicle accidents.  That’s an average of 383 deaths per year.  (Source: the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Fatality Analysis Reporting System Encyclopedia” at

Today’s New York Times reports that the U.S. Department of Transportation has established a new dollar amount on the value of a single life.  It is $6.1 million.  Therefore, grade school math tells us that the 383 people killed annually on New York City streets, on average, are a loss of over $2.3 BILLION dollars to the city ($2,336,300,000 to be precise).
There would be a fantastic financial benefit if New York City had perfectly safe streets, where no one was killed by cars.  And what is a cheap and easy and fast way to create safer streets?  Create bike lanes.  Bike lanes have repeatedly been proven to diminish accidents for all users on city streets.
The New York City Department of Transportation spends only $6 million dollars per year on bike lane improvements, with $4 million of that coming from the federal government (source: NYC DOT testimonial to the city council in 2010).  This is less than the value of a single human life saved, each year.
Imagine: if safe streets blanketed the city, and no one had to “die by motor vehicle,” the city would have $2.3 billion dollars to use for safety improvements. Of course there is a cost for safer streets.  Does it exceed $2.3 billion per year?
For council members who are ready to put their money where their mouths are, here is an easy way to raise $2.3 billion, every year, for the city they represent.
Install street improvements.  Quickly.  On every street in New York City.  And start with the bike lanes.

New York Times
As U.S. Agencies Put More Value on a Life, Businesses Fret
Published: February 16, 2011
Agencies that calculate the worth of a life have been raising the number, which affects how much the government should spend to prevent a single death.


Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2011 Robert Matson

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