NYC bicycling boom: 320 percent jump in daily trips since 1990, report says

Ready, set, ride!

New lanes, greenways and other bicycle-minded infrastructure have led a cycling boom in New York City, according to a new city report.

“Cycling in the City,” a Department of Transportation report out today, says the city has experienced a 320% increase in daily cycling between 1990 and 2014, from 100,000 riders to 420,000.

The report, the first of its kind from the DOT, attempts to attach ridership data to the cultural shift in bike riding and street planning over the past 26 years.

“The release of these numbers confirms and validates this department’s strategy and our investment, a relatively low-cost investment, of building our bike network,” said deputy commissioner Ryan Russo. “Cycling is a legitimate part of our transportation network. It’s no longer something you do on the weekend.”

Transit officials credit the continued growth to the bicycle-friendly redesigns of city streets, including the 1,000 miles of bicycle lanes that have been striped since 1984, and the roll out of Citi Bike, the nation’s largest bike share network.

“There is clearly a generational thing happening here. When I was attending college in New York, bicycling was not a popular thing to do,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who graduated from Barnard in 1986. “Now, college-aged kids, they all ride bikes … So when we looked at these numbers, we were excited. You see this incredible growth.”

Trottenberg credits the work of her predecessors, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, for galvanizing the movement with PlaNYC and Citi Bike, which have helped prioritize cycling in New York.

At a borough level, Brooklyn has seen the fastest percentage growth in cycling as a commuting option. Between 2010 and 2014, bike commutes in the borough increased by 75%, from 10,494 to 18,317. Bike commuters in Manhattan, during the same time period, increased by 68%, from 8,997 to 15,088. Queens saw the same 68% increase in that time frame, with bike commutes growing from 3,764 to 6,342.

There are now 778,000 New York City cyclists that bike the five boroughs regularly, or “at least several times per month,” as the city classifies it. But bike commutes have grown at a slower rate between 2010 and 2014 in the Bronx (19%) and Staten Island (9%).

“There’s been a noticeable boost in investment in bike infrastructure in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens; so that growth is not a coincidence,” said Caroline Samponaro, deputy director at Transportation Alternatives. “We’ve been advocating for equitable acceleration and expansion of the city’s bike network in places like the Bronx and Staten Island to give riders safe commutes.”

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Transportation Committee, said that building out the Citi Bike network and installing high-quality lanes will help.

“Our challenge is to continue expanding protected bike lanes in the city,” said Rodriguez. “When it comes to Citi Bike, the numbers speak for themselves. We know with the new restructure of Citi Bike the system is better. Financially, it will continue to expand.”

Trottenberg said her department is committing to improved bike lanes and plans to install 15 miles of protected lanes this year.

“We recognize the importance of lane quality and we want to make the important connection within our network,” said Trottenberg. “There’s always more work to do there.”

(With Ivan Pereira)