Spring is in the air! And so is National Bike Month – an annual event held in May to encourage this fun and healthy alternative form of transportation.
In New York, Transportation Alternatives is hosting its Bike to Work Challenge, encouraging offices to compete with one another to raise awareness (and earn bragging rights, of course). New Yorkers even got to ride Citi Bike for free last Thursday, courtesy of Switzerland Tourism.
So just how prevalent is bike culture in New York? According to the U.S Census Bureau, 0.8 percent of workers commute by bike in New York City – an increase of 0.3 percent since 2000. This is higher than the national average of 0.6 percent, but far lower than many of the nation’s major cities.
Why the low ridership?
Safety: Biking in New York can be an intimidating prospect for most people, and for good reason. While some roads and parks have been modified to accommodate riders, the reality in other parts of the city is quite different. The result? 16,059 pedestrians and cyclists injured, 178 killed in traffic in 2013.
Busting 5th Avenue, below left, has many kinds of lanes, but none for cyclists. Queens Boulevard, aka “The Boulevard of Death,” below right, stretches 16 lanes wide but has no bike path (source).
Theft: In 2014, 4,819 bikes were reported stolen – a 70 percent increase over the last 4 years. Bike theft in this city is so bad that some manufacturers even offer aspecial line of lock, specifically for New York streets.
Resources: New York City is composed of five boroughs, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at the Citibike Station Map. All of its 6,000 bikes are concentrated in Manhattan below 59th street, and north Brooklyn.
The same can be said for the city’s bike paths – which are virtually nonexistent in the outer boroughs.
Then what needs to change?
A lot. But, one could argue that we’re heading in the right direction. Events like Bike New York’s 40-mile TD Bike Tour have been successful in garnering interest and raising money for resources such as bike education classes and equipment. Even in its limited coverage, Citibike has taken off with 93,000 annual subscriptions, 34,000 rides per day, and does plan to expand further into Brooklyn and Queens. In addition, the city has started to follow this momentum by adding 366 miles of bike lanes from 2006-2013 – with many more in the works.
White “ghost’ bikes” (photo source) and traffic signs have promoted awareness and shined a spotlight on bicyclist and pedestrian safety. Bike safety has even earned a place on the mayor’s agenda, in Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” plan.
Still, the reality remains that, as just 0.8 percent of the local population, cyclists are a minority on the road. However, National Bike Month offers you the opportunity to help change this – and have some fun doing it. So this May, toss that Metrocard, pick up a bike, and join the 1 percent!