NYC bike ridership increases across boroughs, demographics

The people have spoken.

Bike ridership has surged in recent years among almost all demographics outlined in a new Health Department report on cycling use in New York City.

The report, published Tuesday, shows increases in bike use among adults and high school students of both sexes, as well as across racial and ethnic groups and in low- and high-income neighborhoods between 2007 and 2014.

The data is the first of its kind from the city agency, billed as a comprehensive look at how riding demographics have changed during a period of earnest commitment to building bike infrastructure.

“Cycling is not only a great mode of transportation in New York City, it’s also a way to increase physical activity and lower the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic diseases,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett in a statement.

“This is true for everyone, whether you live in a wealthy or a high-poverty neighborhood. This report shows that not only are more and more New Yorkers cycling, but that the increases are widespread. We will continue our work with DOT and community partners to promote safe active transportation across the five boroughs.”

Between 2007 and 2014, the number of New York City adults who cycled at least once a month increased from 12 to 16 percent, according to the report.

Cycling among high school students also increased, with 25 percent of those surveyed in 2013 saying they ride bikes at least once a month, compared to 17 percent in 2009.

The demographic data complements another cycling report that the Department of Transportation published this spring, which focused exclusively on traffic volumes. That report found that 778,000 New York adults bike at least several times a month — about a 67 percent increase when compared to 2009 figures.

Experts and advocates believe that reliable bike infrastructure has spurred the cycling swell. Since 2010, the city has installed almost 300 bike line miles, including more than 40 miles of protected lanes.

The largest increases in riding occured around the city’s most robust bike infrastructure, according to the Health Department report.

“I thought it was very telling that the highest reported increases really overlap with the densest parts of the bike network; the parts of network-protected bike lanes and parts of the network that have Citi Bike,” said Jon Orcutt, spokesman at TransitCenter and former policy director for the Transportation Department. “So it’s very much, ‘Build it and they will come.’ The real challenge for the city is expanding that into more residential parts of town.”

The Bronx, which the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranks as the worst New York county in terms of health outcomes, was the only borough that did not see an increase in the number of adults who cycled once a month or more.

“I think it’s symptomatic of Bronx’s overall transportation needs being put on the backburner for years,” said Bronx Councilman James Vacca, a supporter of bringing more bike infrastructure to the borough.

“I think the Bronx has been overlooked and you cannot expect a bike usage to jump when there is no impetus and incentive.”

High-density Manhattan has been a proving ground, but the city is challenged to build out infrastructure in more residential areas. “When you’re looking at low-income neighborhoods, the ridership report makes it clear that the mayor needs to double down investment in building bike lanes,” said Caroline Samponaro, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives.

(With Ivan Pereira)

Cycling stats from the city Health Department, between 2007 and 2014:

NYC adults who cycled at least once a month increased from 12 to 16 percent.

Percent increase per borough:

Manhattan, 12 to 22 percent

Brooklyn, 12 to 16 percent

Queens, 12 to 15 percent

Staten Island, 10 to 13 percent

The Bronx (no change).

Percent increases by neighborhood, between 2007 and 2014:

Manhattan: Washington Heights, 8 to 19 percent; East Harlem, 6 to 21 percent; Upper East Side-Gramercy 9 to 23 percent; Union Square-Lower Manhattan, 15 to 26 percent

Brooklyn: Bedford Stuyvesant-Crown Heights, 8 to 17 percent; Flatbush, 8 to 15 percent

The Bronx: Fordham, 8 to 14 percent

Staten Island: North Shore, 9 to 14 percent

The prevalence in all other neighborhoods did not change during this period.

Percent increase by household poverty:

Low poverty (wealthy): 13 to 21 percent

Medium poverty: 9 to 15 percent

High poverty: 11 to 13 percent

Very high poverty: 13 to 14 percent

Percent increase by ethnicity, between 2007 and 2014:

White adults: 13 to 19 percent

Black adults: 10 to 13 percent

Latino adults: 13 to 17 percent