New York named best biking city in the country

New York City of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at a news conference on Sept. 3, 2014 about Bicycling magazine's designation of New York City as the top U.S. city for cycling.
New York City of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at a news conference on Sept. 3, 2014 about Bicycling magazine’s designation of New York City as the top U.S. city for cycling. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Frazer Harrison

New York City is officially bike central USA.

For the first time, Bicycling magazine named the Big Apple the best bike city in the country Wednesday, beating out other cities like Chicago, Minneapolis and Portland, which had the top spot in 2012.

The city rose from its No. 7 ranking two years ago in the biennial report because of improvements made to accommodate cyclists, including adding hundreds of miles of bike lanes and introducing Citi Bike, according to the magazine’s editor-in-chief Bill Strickland.

“Bikes are the indicator of the vibrancy of an urban area,” he said at a news conference at Lafayette Street, which got a bike lane in April.

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said those improvements helped get the city the No. 1 ranking for the first time in the 20 years since the magazine has been putting out its list. She said the changes were just the beginning of the mayor’s plans to make New York more bike accessible.

The magazine didn’t have an exact method for coming up with its ranking of the 50 cities but it looked at data from the census, the cities’ transportation policies and services and plans.

New York saw its bike commuters double between 2007 and 2011 to 36,496 riders. The city comproises of the largest population of two-wheeled commuters in the nation, according to the census.Strickland said that in addition to creating 350 miles of bike lanes in the last 12 years and signing up 96,000 annual Citi Bike members, the city created strong relationships with bike advocacy groups and increased awareness for urban biking and safety.

Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White said former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mayor Bill de Blasio were very receptive to their ideas and suggestions.

“What made a difference is the human interaction . . . going to the community boards and telling people how the bike lanes worked,” he said.

Bike New York president Ken Podziba said he was thrilled that Gotham took the top spot and called it a great payoff for all of the advocacy from the city’s riders for better services.

“For the entire community this is nothing less than a dream come true,” he said.

Despite the praise, some New Yorkers said they were still on the fence about cruising the city on a bike. Pamela Linke, 22, of Murray Hill, said she has concerns about biking in Manhattan because of the dangers of oncoming cars that ignore bike lanes.

“If [the lanes] were completely separate from the road, that would be better,” she said.

Trottenberg, however, said the transportation department made huge progress in improving bike safety.

The agency released the findings of a three-year study Wednesday of before and after crash data on seven miles of protected bike lanes. Injuries to all street users went down by 20% after the lanes were set up.

“The results confirm the safety of marked bike lanes,” the commissioner said.

Trottenberg said she was confident that New York would be on the top of the list in 2016.The city is on pace to add 58 bike lane miles, the largest single year expansion to date, to neighborhoods like Brownsville, Long Island City, Washington Heights.

Trottenberg also reassured that the launch of Citi Bike in Long Island City and Greenpoint will happen soon, but the city is still working out the kinks with the various companies involved in running the service.

“New York has the biggest [bike share] program in the country and there are a lot of moving parts,” she said.

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