Bike to Work Day is as good a day as any to take stock of how much work remains for New York to become a truly safe place to ride a bike, where everyone who wants to get places by bicycle can feel comfortable doing so.
The League of American Bicyclists said on Wednesday that New York will not earn gold status in its Bicycle Friendly Community program this year. The rating system evaluates applicants on everything from infrastructure to education and events. New York is one of 303 communities in 48 states recognized by the program, with four cities having attained the highest level — platinum (Portland, Oregon, is the largest of the four).
New York received an honorable mention in 2004 and was upgraded to silver in 2011. This year, while the League recognized that the city “deserves an extraordinary amount of credit” for bike-share and its growing bikeway network, it also highlighted the big shortcomings in New York’s bikeability.
“Improvements to the bicycling infrastructure and the bike-share program are still limited in scope to certain areas of the city,” League President Andy Clarke said in a statement that also cited low rates of bike ridership compared to other cities and a lack of traffic enforcement by NYPD. “Looking forward, continued expansion of the bikeway and bike share system and actions arising from the welcome adoption of a Vision Zero strategy — hopefully with the full participation of the NYPD — will ensure further progress towards the Gold level.”
Local bike advocacy groups agreed that the city has to do more to bolster bicycling.
“We are encouraged by Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to increase cycling to 6 percent of all trips in the coming years,” Transportation Alternatives said in a statement agreeing with the League’s assessment. “In order to reach that goal and achieve Vision Zero, the DOT should follow the rollout of its new Arterial Slow Zone program by redesigning these hazardous corridors to include protected bike lanes and other street safety infrastructure.”
“It’s obvious that cycling in New York has been on an upswing; what’s absolutely necessary at this point is to keep that momentum,” said Bike New York President and CEO Ken Podziba in a statement. “Silver isn’t anything to sneeze at, and with sustained efforts at educating and engaging New Yorkers in regards to cycling, I have no doubt that we’ll ‘get the gold.'”
You can argue with the Bicycle Friendly Community designations. Is New York really worse than gold-rated San Francisco? Does any American city actually deserve a platinum rating? But there’s no denying that the ratings are a great conversation starter.
With that in mind, what would it take, in your view, to make New York a real bike-friendly city? Consider this an open thread.