26 Sep Cycling Cities
Bicycling is New York City’s fastest growing mode of transportation. Today, three-quarters of a million people regularly ride a bicycle in New York City, and that number is growing faster than the economy, or the population. At the start of his first term, Mayor Bill de Blasio set a goal for 2020: Double the number of New Yorkers who regularly ride a bicycle.
To understand this explosive growth, outline how Mayor de Blasio can meet his goal of 1.5 million bicycling New Yorkers, and explain what the City of the New York must do to protect and nurture this growing population, Transportation Alternatives conducted a series of intensive focus groups,
and interviewed thousands of New Yorkers. The result is BikeNYC 2020: What New York Needs to be a World-Class Bicycling City – a report on the state of bicycling, and its future. Transportation Alternatives found:
• More than two-thirds of less frequent riders said the most important thing the City of New York could do to encourage them to ride more is build more protected bike lanes.
• 71% of those who used to ride, but stopped, said that feeling unsafe played a role in their stopping, and 21% stopped directly because of a harrowing incident.
• 92% of former bicyclists said that more protected bike lanes would encourage them to ride again.
• 99% of less experienced bicyclists feel safer in a protected bike lane.
• 88% of frequent bicyclists are concerned about being hit by a driver, and 94% of frequent bicyclists have encountered at least one car parked in a bike lane in the past month.
This research demonstrates that the City of New York’s investment in protected bike lanes has been critical to the growth of bicycling, and that the widespread installation of this infrastructure is critical to its continued growth.
However, the past build-out of the bicycle network has largely benefited the central business districts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, disregarding neighborhoods that already suffer from poor access to transit. This inequity is compounded by disproportionate police action
against predominantly immigrant delivery workers, and in Black and
To combat this inequity, and to meet New York’s transportation needs and desires, as well as meet Mayor de Blasio’s goal of doubling bicycling by 2020, Transportation Alternatives recommends:
• Invest the lion’s share of street redesign resources in neighborhoods that have historically been ignored.
• Guarantee that every New Yorker will live within a ¼ mile of a protected bike lane by 2020.
• Couple every redesign of a major street with the installation of a protected bike lane. In the past fiscal year, 83 miles of bike lanes were added to New York City streets, 80% of which were unprotected. But over the same time period, the City found resources to resurface 1,321 miles of roads, yet failed to take the opportunity to integrate protected bike lanes on these streets.
• Launch trial projects to prove the efficacy of bicycle superhighways, protected intersections, and car-free People Ways to encourage more bicycling, and make more streets safe for bicycling.
• Build dedicated, protected bicycle access on every bridge, working with other agencies as required.
• Facilitate a five-borough bike share system by directing public funding from City Hall and loosening current requirements to help Citi Bike reach every neighborhood.
• Prioritize the passage of laws in the New York City Council that facilitate bicycling, including the legalization of the “Idaho Stop” at red lights and of safe electric-assist bikes, granting bicyclists the right to proceed on walk signals with leading pedestrian intervals, and permission for parents to ride on sidewalks beside their children.
• End police practices that depress bicycling, such as ticketing for minor bicyclist infractions in places where drivers have killed bicyclists, and the inequitable crackdown on commercial bicyclists.
• Increase the installation of bicycle parking in residential and commercial neighborhoods.
• Work with the City Council to create an exemption for Vision Zero Priority Corridors in Local Law 61 of 2011, which suggests the necessity for community board hearings on the construction or
removal of bicycle lanes.
The Vision for Biking in New York
Mayor de Blasio has made it his goal to double biking in New York City from 2013 levels by 2020. Applied to the number of people riding a bike at least several times a month , this comes to approximately 1.5 million New Yorkers riding regularly.
Transportation Alternatives wholeheartedly supports the goal of doubling cycling, but we have yet to see a clear, strong policy direction that will achieve it. This report lays forth the steps Mayor de Blasio and his administration must take in order to make this dream a reality, and can serve as a reference to what bicyclists want and need in order for their mode of transportation to be as safe
and accessible as possible.
While doubling the number of riders may seem like a tall order, it is important to note the context of very recent history. In 2007, about 21,000 New Yorkers were commuting to work by bicycle. By 2015, this number had more than doubled to 45,000. Similarly, while New Yorkers were making 76.7 million annual trips by bicycle in 2007, by 2015 this figure had shot up to 164.3 million annual trips.
Crucial to the expansion of bicycling during this time period was the construction of 54.2 miles of protected bike lanes to complement several hundred miles of Class 2 painted lanes and sharrows.
An even more massive build-out of protected bike lanes will be needed to encourage more New
Yorkers to ride.
Why should New York City make the efforts to expand the bike lane network, undertake major investments in bridges and greenways, expand bike share and bike parking facilities, and improve opportunities for bicyclists? Just as there are many reasons to ride, there are many reasons to want a populace that believes in bicycling. Some benefits may seem purely personal: riding a bicycle is aerobic exercise, and many riders report it enhances their mood and reduces stress. But there are wider societal benefits as well: Public health researchers analyzing New York City’s investment in bike lanes found that they are “an exceptionally good value” compared to the majority of preventive interventions, “because they simultaneously address multiple public health problems.
25% of NYC adults have ridden a bicycle in the past year
In addition, bikes are a spatially efficient mode of transportation, and greater bicycle mode share would mean less congestion, a serious problem in the Manhattan Central Business District and
other busy locations in the city. Bicycles are also emissions-free, helping New York City reach its climate goals. At the highest level, bicycling is essential for a livable city, as proven by many of New York’s peers around the world that have invested in cycling infrastructure and seen massive improvements to quality of life. Bicycle promotion goes hand-in-hand with the recognition that too much public space is allocated to private cars, the most spatially inefficient form of transportation.
Through bold action, cities like Paris, London, and Oslo have transformed their street network to encourage more biking, embracing innovations that New York should follow. So, the question is not why should the City promote riding a bicycle, but rather, why should the City build out an extensive, connected, high-quality bike lane network for all New Yorkers?
Crucial to the expansion of bicycling between 2007
and 2015 was the construction of 54.2 miles of
protected bike lanes.
The Vision Zero Case for Bike Infrastructure
One of the most significant differences between the time when the Bicycle Blueprint was published and today is that New York City has adopted Vision Zero as official policy. Vision Zero, a street safety initiative based on the foundational premise that no level of fatality on city streets is inevitable or acceptable, aims to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on New York City streets by 2024. Enacted by Mayor Bill de Blasio as one of his flagship policies upon taking office in 2014, Vision Zero has led to the allocation of record amounts of new funding for street re-engineering and a renewed emphasis on building protected bicycle infrastructure.
However, with 20 bicyclist deaths recorded in 2016, it is clear that bicycle infrastructure is still inadequate, and that significant increases in protected bike lanes are necessary in order to encourage more people – especially those who may be nervous about the prospect of biking in New York City – to choose
bicycling. The vast majority of bicyclist deaths in New York City – 89% – happen where there is no bicycle infrastructure.
To date, only two fatalities are known to have occurred when bike riders were using a protected lane, and in both cases, the riders were killed when they entered unprotected intersections and drivers made unlawful moves against them. Bicyclists know that riding should be fun – and it’s far more fun to be free from worries about reckless drivers
In order to both maximize ridership and minimize
risk, more protected bike lanes are a necessity.
More bicyclists on New York City streets means more safety for riders. Researchers have found evidence there is indeed safety in numbers – that, the greater the number of people riding, the less likely they are to be involved in a crash. This is likely because drivers change their behavior in the presence of a group. The Department of Transportation’s Cycling Risk Indicator shows that while the number of people riding in New York City has increased in recent years, the number of bicyclist
injuries and fatalities has not risen accordingly, meaning that the risk of riding a bicycle has actually decreased.
An evaluation of two-way protected bike lanes in Montreal found that the risk of rider injury in this type of infrastructure is 28% less than in an unprotected street.Findings from New York City’s one-way arterial street bike lanes have found similar results. In addition, protected bike lanes have a significant impact on decreasing crashes between motor vehicles and pedestrians thanks to their overall trafficcalming effects, with pedestrian injuries down 22% on these corridors.
Street design is a systems approach to safety, benefiting every road user when streets are engineered to protect the most vulnerable. Simply put, bicycle infrastructure is good for all New Yorkers, and more people on bicycles benefits the city as a whole.
In order to both maximize ridership and minimize risk, more protected bike lanes are a necessity.
The Sustainability Case
63% think the most important thing the City could do to improve bicycling is to build more
protected bike lanes
Congestion has significantly worsened in New York City. The root cause of this is too many cars,
and the solution is the embrace of more spatially efficient forms of transportation like bicycles.
Contrary to popular misconception, data from Manhattan avenues on which protected bike 94%
lanes were installed shows that these lanes do not have encountered a car in the bike lane in the past month worsen traffic congestion; in fact, they can make multi-modal traffic flow more moothly, with every road user in their place.
Not only do bicycles occupy considerably less space than cars, they are also a zero emissions
choice. And with the development of increasingly innovative cargo bicycles,there exists the possibility of replacing the pollution and double-parking of trucks with sustainable bicycle deliveries. The City’s 80 X 50 plan for drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions has recognized
the significant role transportation has to play in making New York City more environmentally friendly. According to the 80 X 50 action plan,biking mode share will need to increase from less than
2% at present to approximately 10% in 2050 in order to help the City achieve the goal of 80% less
99% of less experienced cyclists feel
This massive increase will require a significant number of car journeys to switch to bicycles. This is doable: According to the NYC DOT, 56% of car journeys in New York City are for three miles or less, easily bike able. safer with a parking protected bike lane But many people who are confident
enough riding a bicycle to make those short trips are already doing so. The vast majority of this mode share shift will have to come from new bicyclists. For longer trips, including many commutes, only major investments in cycling infrastructure will make this change possible.
On a similar note, a bicycle-friendly city with a bicycle-ready population is well positioned to be
resilient to environmental challenges. As was made abundantly clear in the aftermath of Super storm Sandy in 2012, the catastrophic weather events that are becoming more frequent can easily
shut down subway, rail, and bus service, disrupting all aspects of city life. An extensive and well-maintained bicycle network can offer a transportation option that remains accessible even when
motor vehicles and other forms of public transit are disabled, unlocking the city in times of need.
The Equity Case
While there is a tremendous diversity in the profile of cyclists across New York City, riding a bicycle is still viewed as somewhat “pale, male, and stale”: the stereotypical bicyclist is a white man, most likely in middle age, with significant disposable income and a tendency to thrill-seek.
Too often lost in discussions of bicycle policy are the voices of an estimated 50,000 delivery bicyclists, who have lower incomes and are more likely to be from immigrant and ethnic minority backgrounds. Delivery bicyclists are typically either denied their side of the story in the media as other people comment on them, or they are demonized as nuisances or menaces.
While every new person on two wheels counts, New York cannot expect to double bicyclist numbers only by getting more of the same demographics of people riding. The City must take concrete steps to ensure that bicycle infrastructure is built in the neighborhoods where street safety has historically been neglected, which tend to be lower-income areas where a majority of residents are people of color.
The Department of Health found that between 2007 and 2014, frequent bicycling increased in all neighborhoods, but did so to a much lesser extent in neighborhoods characterized as having high or very high poverty. Likewise, the tendency to ride a bicycle at least once a month is significantly higher in low poverty households than in those which are poor or very poor. Among frequent bicyclists, men still outnumber women more than two to one, and a persistent gap in likelihood
to ride a bicycle persists between white and black New Yorkers.
The lack of a safe place to ride turns attempts to stay out of harm into criminal acts.
A 2017 Manhattan Institute study found that, in general, Vision Zero improvements have been concentrated in wealthier neighborhoods, particular in Manhattan, leaving many disadvantaged areas with majority Black and/or Latino populations without lifesaving infrastructure for both bicyclists and pedestrians. A City study published in January 2014, focusing on bicyclists in Central Brooklyn, suggested that “enhancing infrastructure that supports active transportation may be effective in reducing health inequities in low-income urban communities.” Together, these findings strengthen the argument for protected bike lanes as a road to greater equity in New York City.
Existing inequalities can simultaneously reduce the uptake of bicycling and reinforce an inequitable situation: Research led by Rutgers University’s Charles Brown has found that in Black and Latino communities, fear – of assault, theft, and police profiling – may form a significant barrier to increasing riding, and that lack of political power often prevents Blacks and Latinos from having a fair share of input in the bicycle planning process. The result is that not only does this inequality stop some people riding bicycles when they might like to, it also means that bicycle infrastructure doesn’t properly take every demographic group into account.
The importance of improving infrastructure cannot be overstated, as it can indirectly address other inequalities while providing safer and more inviting places to ride. For example, while adults who ride a bicycle on the sidewalk can receive either a moving violation or a more serious criminal court summons, there are drastic differences among precincts in how frequently these are given.
Considering that many bicyclists ride on the sidewalk because it in unsafe to ride in the street – meaning, there is no protected bike lane – inequalities in bike lane coverage translate to inequity in legal consequences. While New York City’s police precincts are almost evenly divided between those that are majority Black and Latino and those that are not, the former see two-and-a-half times the
number of criminal summonses for riding on the sidewalk. The lack of a safe place to ride turns attempts to stay out of harm into criminal acts.
Where protected bike lanes have been installed, businesses have thrived.
Vision Zero can serve as a force for ending the “tale of two cities” evoked by Mayor de Blasio in his campaigns. One step towards refocusing street improvements on equity would be for the City to follow Seattle’s lead and appoint an expert to a new position, Transportation Equity Manager, for Vision Zero. This position would recognize that improvements in transportation, particularly
bicycle infrastructure, have not been distributed equitably.
With a proper focus on planning, the City can ensure that all communities can benefit from opportunities for safer active transportation, and that none are treated as afterthoughts or as less deserving of these necessities.
The Civic Case
New Yorkers don’t like playing second fiddle to anybody. Nobody comes to New York City with the hopes of being just good enough, a perpetual runner-up. But other than taking a blow to our pride, failure to improve bicycling conditions can cause a heavy hit to the City’s wallet.
The necessity to redesign streets quickly and effectively was made even more clear by the December 2016 ruling of the New York State Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, in Tuturro v City of New York. The Court found that the City could be held 40% liable for a 2004 crash
in which twelve-year-old Anthony Tuturro of Brooklyn was hit and severely injured on his bicycle by a speeding driver on a stretch of Gerritsen Avenue that was known to be dangerous, but which had not received a sufficient speeding study or intervention to calm traffic. As Tuturro’s injuries will require lifelong care, this translates to millions of dollars that the City is responsible for paying.
If improvements to other known dangerous streets proceed too slowly, the City could be vulnerable to many more judgments like this one. Therefore, there is both a financial argument and a legal basis for redesigning streets to be safer, and it should be done before there is a chance for any more New Yorkers to suffer lifelong disabilities due to preventable crashes, and so that all New Yorkers will benefit.
In 2016, the City paid out $30.8 million in personal injury claims related to roadway defects and $89.7 million for injuries sustained in collisions with City vehicles. Even if the obvious human suffering caused by crashes is set aside to consider only the fiscal impact to the City, clearly prevention is preferable to an attempt to fix the problem at a later date.
Central to the re-engineering of streets to better serve bicyclists (and pedestrians) must be the recognition that for too long, the majority of New York City’s public spaces – roads – have been dedicated to serving relatively few users with cars at the expense of the wider city population. These public spaces are provided as free or below-market-rate private property storage in the form of car parking while bicyclists and pedestrians are forced to scramble for the relatively small amount of room they can get. In the only American city where fewer than half of households
own a car, this is spatially inefficient and fundamentally inequitable.
The promotion of cycling has further benefits in promoting the city itself. Notably, where protected bike lanes have been installed, businesses have thrived: Locally-based businesses on Manhattan’s Ninth Avenue saw a 49% increase in retail sales after the opening of the protected bike lane, compared to 3% for the borough as a whole.
Likewise, after bikes lanes were installed on First and Second Avenues, commercial vacancy rates were 47% lower than before the street redesign. The rest of the city saw only a 2% decrease in vacancies for the same time period. Bicycle infrastructure is good for business, and good for New York City.
The Public Health Case
Bicyclists have long espoused the health benefits of their transportation choice, and recent research has begun to quantify them.
A research team from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found that the 45.5 miles of bike lanes built by the City in 2015 likely increased the probability of riding a bicycle by 9.32%. Their model then determined that over the lifetime of all New York City residents, bike lane construction produced additional costs of only $2.79 per person while improving public health outcomes even for those who do not ride, making bicycle infrastructure more cost effective in
improving health than many other preventive approaches. This study, specifically tailored to New York City’s unique environment, makes it abundantly clear that if the City wishes to take action to improve public health, building bike lanes is an excellent choice.
On a neighborhood level, Citi Bike has already been harnessed as a tool of health promotion, with doctors writing prescriptions for free memberships through the Prescribe-a-Bike program at Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant – just one creative way in which encouraging bicycling can lead to positive outcomes. Programs like this should be promoted by the City so that they can extend to all New Yorkers.
We call upon the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to play a larger role in Vision Zero, and to take the opportunity to be at the forefront of research into the specific health impacts bicycling can have on urban populations.
In Appendix A of this report, we have compiled recent peer-reviewed scientific research into the health benefits of bicycling, gleaned from around the world. While not all results from outside New York City will be directly transferable, these studies provide strong support to a growing body of research that should be harnessed to guide policy.
Where Did You Go, Bike Master Plan?
Many of the ideas presented in this report are not new. In fact, some are over twenty years old, and appeared in the New York City Bicycle Master Plan released by the city in 1997. They appear again here because we are still waiting for them to arrive after two decades.
The Bicycle Master Plan was the product of the Bicycle Network Development Project, a joint effort between the Department of Transportation and the Department of City Planning to illustrate the actions the City would need to take in order to increase cycling. Citing the bicycle as “a liberating, healthy, inexpensive, environmentally beneficial and, in general, fun way to travel,” the Master Plan incorporated input from Transportation Alternatives and put forward a vision for a 909-mile citywide network.
Then as now, the majority of routes were unprotected, but the plans for this network took into account the need for designing roadways suitable even for beginners, and considered criteria including low conflict with motor vehicles, directness, to major origins and destinations, and connections with other routes.
Even in 1997, the City was drawing attention to the need for the bicycle network to be not just expansive, but connected – facilitating movement across the entire city. Bed ford and Franklin Avenues in Brooklyn are cited as linking colleges and hospitals, while University Avenue is granted priority status for linking the Mosholu-Pelham Greenway and Van Cortland Park with Manhattan via the Macombs Dam Bridge. Northern Boulevard was made notable by its service as a cross-borough connection all the way from Long Island City to Long Island proper, and a Flushing-Jamaica route was needed to specifically link two major commercial centers in an outer borough.
These links were seen as not only desirable, but urgently necessary, because they conveniently took riders where they needed to go. Yet a look at the latest New York City bicycle map shows the network is still largely piecemeal outside Manhattan. The Master Plan’s section on access to mass transit acknowledges multi-modal trips and the necessity of making it easier to link up bicycles and
other modes with important amenities like dedicated parking at inter modal centers and bicycle racks on buses – things now commonplace in other cities, but barely existent in New York.
Notably, while Manhattan routes were built out, of the outer borough streets flagged as Proposed Priority Bicycle Routes in 1997, none has a class 1 protected bike lane today. Most, including University Avenue, the Grand Concourse, Prospect Avenue, and Crotona Avenue in the Bronx; Bedford Avenue, Franklin Avenue, Bergen Street, and Dean Street in Brooklyn; 164th Street and small portions of Skillman Avenue and 43rd Avenue in Queens, and the eastern end of Richmond Terrace in Staten Island, now have class 2 bike lanes painted on the street.
Some of these so-called priorities, like First and Second Avenues in Sunset Park and Parsons Boulevard in Flushing, have nothing. Our survey found that painted bike lanes do not make bicyclists feel nearly as safe as class 1 protected bike lanes do, and thus it is unlikely that these class 2 lanes attract or reassure new bicyclists. While a protected bike lane will soon be built on the Grand Concourse, it should go without saying that a city that takes twenty years to fulfill a priority is not a city that is taking the needs of bicyclists seriously enough.
In a precursor to Vision Zero’s “Three Es,” the Bicycle Master Plan mentioned the importance of Engineering, Enforcement, and Education – but crucially, they included a fourth E: Encouragement. Reading the Bicycle Master Plan, one gets the distinct impression that riding a bicycle was something the City truly wanted more New Yorkers to try, and crucially, they were proposing a number of concrete and realistic initiatives to make it safer, easier, and more fun to do.
As fear is typically the barrier to riding, encouragement in the form of improvements for safety and convenience are likely to best nudge non-riders towards giving bicycles a try. This attitude in the Master Plan is even more impressive, in retrospect, considering how fewer New Yorkers rode bicycles and how little infrastructure was in place. In fact, in 1997, in-line skaters outnumbered bicyclists two to one. It is inexplicable how New York City can still be waiting on so many plans to become reality 20 years down the line, with bicycling now far more popular and normalized.
94% have encountered a car in the bike lane in the past month
A bike lane on Queens Boulevard over the Sunny side Yards, a dedicated bicycle route over the upper path of the Henry Hudson Bridge, a multi-use path on Atlantic Avenue in Queens, a Shore Parkway bicycle path to JFK Airport: the plans of 1997 are the maybe-someday dreams of 2017. What happened? Both in attitudes to bicycling and in planning for a connected bike lane network, New York City seems to have moved backward in some respects even as the number of bicyclists skyrocketed.
Bicycle infrastructure today is characterized by its piecemeal, fragmented nature, as if it were an afterthought. But there is no need to reinvent the (bicycle) wheel with regard to planning for the next wave of bicycling improvements in New York City. The Bike Master Plan should be revisited, completed, and then updated for the generation that has grown up in a New York where biking is a mainstream transportation option.
Findings from the BikeNYC 2020 Survey
The best way to find out about the state of bicycling in New York City is to talk to bicyclists themselves, in all their diversity of experiences and opinions. Starting in September 2016, Transportation Alternatives launched a survey of New Yorkers in order to find out exactly how they
feel about cycling in the city. More accurately, we launched four surveys, each for a specific type of New Yorker.
While we intended to primarily hear from riders, characterized as either the hardcore “Bike Fearless” or generally enthusiastic “Bike Lover,” we also created a set of questions specifically for “Bike Curious” people who used to ride but stopped, or who haven’t ridden yet but would consider doing so in the future, in order to learn more about barriers to bicycling.
We also devised a section, “Bike Humbug,” for people who are certain they will never ride a bike in New York City, so that we can better understand how they feel about bicycles and bike infrastructure. Optional additional mini surveys after the main banks of questions probed
attitudes towards Citi Bike, riding with family, and additional aspects of New York City biking.
A total of 6186 New Yorkers took the Bike NYC 2020 survey.
They were characterized as follows:
Bike Fearless: 2648 respondents; 43% of total
Bike Lover: 2679; 43% of total
Bike Curious: 777; 13% of total
Bike Humbug: 82; 1% of total
In addition, twelve focus groups were held with a variety of diverse respondents from around New York City to delve into greater detail about what they liked and disliked about bicycling, and what would make their lives on two wheels easier. Below are the main findings of our surveys and focus groups.
Bicycles fulfill New Yorkers’ needs.
Convenience was the number one reason cited by frequent riders as to why they ride a bicycle, with one third (34%) saying this is the most important factor to them. Next in importance were simply
the fact that riding a bicycle is fun (28%), and that it is a healthy transportation option(24%). Concern for the environment and the fact that riding a bicycle is cheaper than some other modes of transportation were relatively less important for frequent riders.
Eighty-eight percent of frequent riders commute by bicycle at least some of the time, and 64% of people who are interested in riding a bicycle in the future say that commuting is something they’d like to do. In focus groups, young people cited bicycling as a way they can be autonomous and avoid people who hassle them on public transportation. With a bicycle, they can choose where they want to go, whenever they want to go.
Other respondents said that riding gives them a sense of control over their transportation, and puts them in a good mood for the day ahead. Three-quarters of frequent riders (76%) wish they could ride even more, and 92% agree that riding a bicycle is a good way to spend less money on transportation.
The network needs improvement.
Almost two-thirds of frequent cyclists (62%) said the most important thing the City could do to improve bicycling would be to build more protected bike lanes – far more important than increasing enforcement (24%), expanding Citi Bike (3%), or providing bicycle education to children (3%).
However, simply building the lanes isn’t enough: Almost all frequent riders (94%) say they have encountered cars parked in bike lanes in the past month. Nine in ten (91%) have encountered potholes or bad pavement conditions in the past month, and significant majorities mention worn-out lane markings, aggressive or rude drivers, drivers who don’t obey the law about sharing the lane, and close encounters with opening car doors as blighting their rides.
Comfort and confidence increase with lane protection.
Among less-frequent bicyclists, only 22% say they feel comfortable bicycling on streets that have no bicycle facilities at all. But a simple painted lane gives confidence to 83%, a painted buffer 91%, and a parking-protected lane makes 99% feel better about riding.
More than two-thirds (68%) of less frequent riders say that the most important thing the City could do to encourage them to ride more often is to build more protected bike lanes. Even those who consider themselves fearless bicyclists aren’t huge fans of riding on streets with no lanes: 64% of this group are comfortable riding there, indicating that frequent bicyclists know that experience and confidence can’t guarantee a safe trip.
Focus groups with a diverse range of participants echoed this feeling: Paint provides no
protection against reckless and disrespectful drivers. Therefore, in order to get more people
riding in New York City – especially those who may be uncertain about their abilities, fearful for their safety, or not sure whether bicycling is “for them” – a greater build-out of protected bike
lanes is crucial. New bicyclists will not flock to streets that are actively inhospitable to them, or that reinforce their suspicion that bicycling is dangerous. One focus group participant, an elderly
woman, said that fully protected bike lanes are they only way she rides– she simply will not go outside green ways or protected bike lanes because she feels, at her age, that her life would be in danger.
Perception of danger can be more powerful than actual risk.
Of those who used to ride but stopped, 71% say that feeling unsafe because of drivers had a role in why they quit. However, only 12% of this group say they actually had a crash or bad experience strong enough to make them not want to ride anymore.
Of those respondents who have never ridden a bicycle in New York City, but wouldn’t rule out trying in the future, 80% cited fear of drivers as a reason why they haven’t started riding yet, and 67% mentioned the lack of protected bike lanes making them feel unsafe.
The DOT’s Cycling Risk Indicator continues to show a downward trend of risk of personal injury as the number of bicyclists increase, but statistics alone cannot surmount personal worries that riding a bicycle can be dangerous. The good news is that protected bike lanes provide that crucial reassurance: 92% of former New York City bicyclists say that more bike lanes would encourage them to get back on a bicycle.
Fear is still a factor.
Eighty-eight percent of frequent bicyclists indicate they are concerned about being hit by a motor vehicle while riding in New York City. Thirty-nine percent report having ever been involved in a crash with a motor vehicle in New York City, with outcomes ranging from no damage to serious injury.
Of those who reported their crash to police, 60% say they are unsatisfied with the how their complaint was handled. Notably, 9% of bicyclists involved in crashes say that they attempted to make a report, but bad experiences during the process put them off completing it.
More than half of ex-riders mentioned that lack of a secure place to store a bicycle – either inside or outside – played a role in why they stopped. A similar proportion of people who have never ridden in New York City, but would like to in the future, are concerned they won’t have somewhere safe to keep a bicycle.
Concerns about bicycle theft, or lack of bicycle storage at the work place, also dissuades a significant proportion of frequent cyclists from commuting by bicycle. Thirty-eight percent of frequent riders say they have difficulty finding a place to park and lock their bicycle.
Several respondents stated the most important thing the City could do to improve bicycling would be to provide more or better bike parking. Likewise, in focus groups, many participants voiced their desire for a variety of better secure parking options, including monitored garages and automated systems.
There are still many barriers to bicycling.
Among New Yorkers who ride infrequently, used to ride but stopped, or who are considering
possibly riding in the future, a variety of factors stand in their way. In addition to concerns about bicycle storage, one in five (21%) mentioned their family and friends don’t want them to ride a
bicycle. A similar proportion (19%) say it is too expensive to buy a bicycle or the necessary gear. One in ten (10%) do not feel physically fit enough to ride.
Most notably, only 46% of this group says that the benefits of riding definitely outweigh the hassles,
indicating that having convenient access to a bicycle – and safe streets on which to ride it – needs to be made easier and more adaptable to New Yorkers’ lifestyles.
Citi Bike is popular and desirable.
68% of Citi Bike users say that at least once a week they make a trip by Citi Bike that they otherwise
would be making by a different mode. More than half of those trips (53%) would have been on the subway if Citi Bike wasn’t available, indicating that an expanded Citi Bike network could help alleviate strain on a mass transit network in dire need of repair. After all, 95% of frequent riders consider a bicycle to be a good alternative to public transit!
Citi Bike trips are made for a variety of practical reasons: errands and appointments (82% of users), social life (71%), and work commuting (61%) are the most popular. The most common reasons frequent bicyclists give for not using Citi Bike is a preference for their own bicycle (65%), a lack of stations near home (37%), and the cost of membership (32%).
Major Investments for a Bicycling Future
New York City can lead the world for bicycle infrastructure