Spring Bike Counts Show Steady Growth of 14 Percent

The growth of cycling in New York City shows no signs of letting up. The Department of Transportation’s latest count of cyclists entering the center of the city posted a 14 percent increase this spring compared to last spring. If the trend holds up for the rest of 2011, it will mark the fifth consecutive year of double digit growth.

“More and more New Yorkers are choosing to get around town by bicycle, and by creating more bike lanes, we’re giving New Yorkers the option to safely choose to bike,” said Mayor Bloomberg in a statement. “It’s the City’s responsibility to adjust to trends in commuting and ensure our streets are safe for everyone on the road, and by improving our street network and strengthening enforcement of traffic laws, we’ve made our streets safer than ever – for everyone.”

As noted by Andrea Bernstein at Transportation Nation, the new numbers were released by the mayor’s office, not the Department of Transportation. That, along with Bloomberg’s statement, is an encouraging sign that the mayor is embracing the increase in cycling as a major achievement — perhaps in recognition of the broad public support for expanding the bike network.

According to the DOT count, the number of commuter cyclists this spring rose 62 percent compared to the spring of 2008. Since 2000, the number has increased by 262 percent. Until now the city has released the annual screenline counts all at once each fall. DOT says they will now release the counts more frequently. One thing to look for in the next release: How the Manhattan Bridge bike detour, which includes several harrowing blocks on the Bowery, is affecting bike commuting over that bridge and the nearby Brooklyn Bridge.

The screenline count, which the city has been collecting for decades, has its advantages and disadvantages. By counting the number of cyclists crossing the East River bridges, on the Hudson River Greenway at 50th Street, and at the Staten Island Ferry, the city captures a certain set of trips that doesn’t necessarily reflect the full citywide picture.

Census data actually showed cycling decreasing citywide in 2008 and 2009, but the Census has its own flaws. It only tracks people’s primary commuting mode, hiding non-work trips and people who commute by bike less than half the time. The numbers DOT announced today, in contrast, count actual, observed bike trips.

  • Hm. It might be better if Bloomberg DIDN’T embrace “the increase in cycling as a major achievement.” That pretty much guarantees all the 2013 candidates will run against bike lanes to distance themselves from the mayor.

  • Hm. It might be better if Bloomberg DIDN’T embrace “the increase in cycling as a major achievement.” That pretty much guarantees all the 2013 candidates will run against bike lanes to distance themselves from the mayor.

  • Anonymous

    DOT numbers completely jibe with my subjective observation of a huge increase in cycling over the past few years. That and the recent poll numbers are encouraging.

    “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the human race.” H.G. Wells

  • Anonymous

    DOT numbers completely jibe with my subjective observation of a huge increase in cycling over the past few years. That and the recent poll numbers are encouraging.

    “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the human race.” H.G. Wells

  • Anonymous

    I hope the 59% approval rating of bicycle lanes will prevent that from happening. Some of the candidates have to realize that embracing bicycle lanes is not only good policy but good politics.

  • Rob

    There is another by-product of NYC’s increase in bicycling: more bikes in the surrounding suburbs.  Just wish there was somebody collecting data on this.  

  • Uh, ok…  Great!

    But what are raw the mode share numbers?  And not commuter mode share as we all know how flawed those numbers can be.  It would be nice to see bicycle mode numbers break the 2% mark if it hasn’t already.

    Mode share is the number we should all be paying attention to.

  • Anonymous

    I’m curious what the thinking will be among candidates.  Plenty of people are mad at Bloomberg for various things, but term limit controversy aside, he did win three elections.  I think that was due in no small part to the popularity of a lot of his initiatives like the smoking restrictions, pedestrian plazas, calories on menus, etc.  I don’t think it was only about money.  It just doing the opposite of a winning strategy a winning strategy?

  • Anonymous

    I’m curious what the thinking will be among candidates.  Plenty of people are mad at Bloomberg for various things, but term limit controversy aside, he did win three elections.  I think that was due in no small part to the popularity of a lot of his initiatives like the smoking restrictions, pedestrian plazas, calories on menus, etc.  I don’t think it was only about money.  It just doing the opposite of a winning strategy a winning strategy?

  • Anonymous

    I’m curious what the thinking will be among candidates.  Plenty of people are mad at Bloomberg for various things, but term limit controversy aside, he did win three elections.  I think that was due in no small part to the popularity of a lot of his initiatives like the smoking restrictions, pedestrian plazas, calories on menus, etc.  I don’t think it was only about money.  It just doing the opposite of a winning strategy a winning strategy?

  • Moser

    Why, what are you talking about?  If cycling is booming in part of the city and negligible in big parts of entire boroughs, why should we obsess over the overall %?  That’s like worrying about the bike mode share in an entire state (like NJ which has roughly the same population as NYC).  It will take years to build a decent bike network city-wide – let’s look at the success where there is a lot of cycling for what it is.   

  • Boris

    Maybe Bloomberg is planning to run against Rahm Emanuel for mayor of Chicago.

  • Danny G

    Mode share is a tough one. From what I understand of it, my biking to the subway station and then riding the train two stops to work does not count as ‘bicycle commuting’ to the census. Sure it’s convenient and saves me 15 minutes by letting me get to a more direct train, but as far as the census goes, it never happened. If this is in fact true (someone please correct me if I am wrong), I’d be skeptical of the value of ‘mode share’.

  • carma

    i couldnt vote for bloomberg b/c he fundamentally ridiculed democracy.  the ppl of nyc voted for term elections only to have bloomie buy out the city council and get his third term “claiming” he is the only one to salvage nyc’s economy.  well, bloomie, wake up.  nyc’s economy is NOT any better than his 3rd term.  and the recent goofups in basic emergency management shows how inept he is for running nyc.

    basic fundamental principles of democracy is what founded this great country.  by overturning the public’s vote, it shows that he has little regard for the people.

  • David
  • Anonymous

    In the previous two years more than half of the growth came from the Hudson river greenway.  This Year it looks like most of the growth is in the Williamsburg bridge alone.  all three Brooklyn/Manhattan bridges account for 85% of the growth.  Last year those three bridges counted for less than a third of the increase.

    These observations are looking only at the spring screenline counts comparison charts.

    JSK headed the DOT since the spring of 2007.  Each of the following years saw the largest increases in ridership new york has seen.

  • Anonymous

    At this rate the count will approximately double every five years.

  • Kencam

    If this keeps up we will soon see someone calling for congestion pricing for bicycles. 

  • David

    While this is exciting it would be interesting to see how bike commute rates compare with other modes – subway, walking, car, bus…

    I found this on Wikipedia, but data appears to be from 2004:

    Of all people who commute to work in New York City, 41% use the subway,
    24% drive alone, 12% take the bus, 10% walk to work, 2% travel by
    commuter rail, 5% carpool, 1% use a taxi, 0.6% ride their bicycle to work, and 0.2% travel by ferry