230,000 Cyclists in NYC

By Kirsten Frattini | Monday, May 3, 2010 10.00pm

Transportation Alternatives estimated that more than 230,000 people road their bikes daily in New York City last year, up 28 percent from 2008.

Communications Director, Wiley Norvel points to several factors that have helped improve the city’s cycling rate that includes 145kms of new bike lanes, on street bicycle parking and the increased push that the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) and the city Mayor Michael Bloomberg put behind city-wide cycling. 

Transportation Alternatives is a non-profit advocacy group founded in 1973 that works for better public walking and bicycling and public transportation in New York City.

It has compiled estimates since 1992 derived from annual counts of bicyclists conducted by the NYCDOT, who survey the number of cyclists around the periphery of the Manhattan central business district. Those numbers are used to come up with transportation trends year after year.

Based on census data, Transportation Alternatives estimate how many bicycling trips do not cross the NYCDOT’s threshold line and extrapolate a citywide total of how many cyclists ride their bikes each day.

“We take their data and we make some adjustments to it based on our knowledge of the number of bike messengers and knowing that for every cyclist the Department of Transportation counts, they might be counted for twice, on the way in and the way out,” said Norvel. “We massage that number into our own city-wide number.”

Transportation Alternatives believes that it has contributed to the 28 percent cycling increase between 2008 and 2009 by expanding, increasing and improving the quality of bike lanes in the New York City.

“Everything from the path over the Williamsburg Bridge to the Hudson River Greenway to some of the more innovative bikeways we have are a result of our advocacy efforts,” Norvel said. “The influence that we have exerted on elected officials and community boards, that is how we make change.”

New York City built nearly 145 kilometres of bike lanes and eight kilometres of protected bike lanes, which separate non-motorized users from motorists, the last year, which largely contributed to the 230,000 cyclists taking daily trips by bicycle each day.

In addition, City Counsel passed the Bicycle Access Law that requires commercial buildings to allow tenants to bring their bicycles indoors.

“It’s one thing when a group of cycling advocates are pushing and encouraging New Yorkers to get on their bicycles and it’s a very different thing when the mayor of a city with eight million people makes that same pitch, like our Mayor has been doing for several years,” Norvel said. “The official focus on the city in promoting bicycling is definitely something that is rubbing off.”

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Norvel agreed that the city of more than eight million people could continue to improvement on the number of those who are riding bikes every day. “We know that 75 percent of driving trips in New York City are five miles or less, which is a very comfortable biking radius,” he said. “So we know that as much growth as we have seen, the potential is much greater.”

Norvel hopes to see a roll out of more physically separated bike lanes to make cycling safe in New York City along with a publicly shared bicycle program with in the next four years.

“Bike sharing is the next frontier in New York City and is what it will take to bring cycling from 30 percent growth to 100 percent growth,” Norvel said. “That is definitely something that we are pushing for in the future.”

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