NYC Bike Counts Jump 35 Percent

screenline.jpgThe rumors were spot on. Yesterday DOT announced a 35 percent increase in commuter cycling. This year, an average of more than 12,500 cyclists were counted crossing DOT’s screenline — a set of checkpoints leading into the Manhattan CBD — up from about 9,300 in 2007. It’s the biggest jump in raw numbers since the count began and the largest percent increase since 2003, when the count went up 36 percent. Overall, cycling in the city has doubled in the past six years. (See the stat breakdown in this PDF — the full version of the bar graph at right is on page 5.)

Advocates cheered the news. "More bike lanes and safer designs like Ninth Avenue are really starting
to pay off," says TA’s Wiley Norvell. "These
numbers really show the huge latent potential for biking in NYC. We
can’t wait for 2009."

DOT paired its announcement with a safety message for cyclists and, yes, drivers:

"This unprecedented increase shows we are well on the way toward our goal of doubling the number of bike commuters," said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "As these numbers rise, cyclists should take all safety precautions, while drivers must be vigilant when sharing our streets with this growing population."

Meanwhile, fueling what could become a heated intercity rivalry, bike counts just came out of Portland touting a 28 percent increase in cycling this year, bringing bike commute mode share up to eight percent.

More background from DOT on its screenline count, after the jump.

DOT first conducted screenline counts of cyclists in 1980 and has been
doing so annually since 1984.  Counts were historically taken once a
year, during the middle of the week for a 12-hour period from 7 a.m. to
7 p.m. In 2007, DOT expanded the time window to 18 hours and added two
additional counting dates. The 18-hour count showed that over a quarter
of cyclists counted use City streets earlier in the morning and later
in the day than previously believed. While commuter cycling has doubled
over the past six years, DOT has found that some facilities have gotten
much more popular.  The cyclist volume on the Williamsburg Bridge has
quadrupled from 2000-2008 to 4,000 cyclists on a typical day.

DOT’s NYC Commuter Cycling Indicator makes use of the most robust data available to estimate the trends in commuter cycling.  While not every commuter cyclist in New York is counted in the screenline, the count locations are high usage areas where trends are easily spotted. The screenline count looks at cyclists crossing the four East River bridges, those entering and exiting the Staten Island Ferry’s Whitehall terminal, as well as cyclists crossing 50th Street on each avenue and the Hudson River Greenway.

This growth in cycling follows two years of DOT efforts to rapidly expand and improve New York’s bicycle network. DOT added 140 miles of new bicycle routes to the on-street bicycle network in 2007 and 2008.

Graphic: NYCDOT [PDF]

  • Bill

    Yet, its still ridiculously difficult to find places to safely store a bike indoors. C’mon, Bike Station, anyone?

  • J. Mork

    I wonder how much effect the softening economy has on bike riding (which is the lowest cost commuting method).

  • Actually, walking is the lowest cost commuting method. 🙂

  • So, to compare ourselves to Portland, what is the current bike commute mode share in New York?

  • Jessica Roberts

    Not lowest cost if you consider your time to be valuable…I love walking, but damn it takes a long time.

  • This study confirms my suspicion that the opening and continued improvement of the Hudson River Greenway has significantly contributed to the surge in utility cycling in New York, because it provides people on bicycles with a safe route between uptown and downtown. In other words, providing protected bike lanes increases the number of bike commuters; simply encouraging cyclists to ride with traffic (without any sort of traffic-calming measures in place) does not.

  • Hi Jessica, it depends on the distance you need to travel. I wouldn’t, for example, bother hopping on a bike to travel up to 15 blocks. The time savings is negligible, and I wouldn’t have the hassle of dealing with bike parking.

    I have a long commute to work, so obviously I do it by bike or subway. 🙂

  • My only complaint about the report is the information graphic: it uses a stacked bar format, which makes it difficult to determine and compare amounts among the sub-bars. Also, Streetsblog, it would be helpful if you linked your graphic to the report, so I can get all the information.

  • Gwin

    I don’t think the Hudson River Greenway is useful for commuters, really. For one thing, it goes much farther to the West in midtown than necessary for most commuters. I tried it once to go from the East Village to 52nd/Broadway, and it added 20 minutes to my ride.

    The other more obvious point is the large number of pedestrians/joggers/rollerbladers that meander into the bike path.

    Also, there is usually a headwind either going up or down the path, making biking that much more difficult.

    In short, I’ll take the streets any day if I’m trying to get to work. If I’m biking recreationally, I might go on the upper sections of the greenway, but the lower are out of the question due to my second point above.

  • Sarah Goodyear

    Your comment points up what is to me one of the biggest missing pieces in the city’s bike lane network–crosstown routes in Midtown. When I commute from Brooklyn to Bronxville to teach one day a week, I like to take my bike, especially because the ride on the Bronxville end is rather bucolic. But getting to Grand Central from Brooklyn? There ain’t no ideal way.

    Either I take the Bklyn Bridge to the Hudson River Greenway and then have to figure out how the heck to get to GC on uniformly dreadful, impossible east-west streets, or I have to forego the safety, speed and pleasure of a protected lane and ride up the East Side streets through the rush-hour rodeo.

    Riding on the greenway can be super-fast because you don’t have to worry about constantly stopping all the time, and if there were a good crosstown route to the midtown business district, I don’t think it would add all that much time to my commute. But there most emphatically is no such route.

  • J

    Gwin- Clearly the Hudson River Greenway doesn’t make sense for all trips, but saying that it isn’t useful for commuters is ridiculous. Your trip has a huge crosstown component, which makes the greenway way out of your way. However, for longer trips along routes that follow the river more (ie. UWS to West Village) the greenway makes perfect sense and is by far the fastest route. Also, not everyone chooses their route based on trip time. Many people choose the safety of the greenway even if it is a bit out of the way. They conclude that a relaxing, if slightly longer commute is better than a short terrifying commute.

    As for hordes of people blocking the path, this mainly happens on summer weekends. Commuting hours are generally pretty light, and in the winter the path is almost always wide open.

  • I found the Greenway a fairly handy commuting route between Inwood and SoHo.

  • Grinner

    Ms. Goodyear:

    might i suggest the Brooklyn Bridge to the bike path on the East River, that path up to (around) 36th, back to 1st, and then left on 42nd? That’s how i got to Grand Central when i was riding from the SI Ferry. I’d suggest Lafayette, but that route goes into the weeds at Union Square….

  • Sarah Goodyear

    Thanks, Grinner. I’ve tried that route too.

    I just find the East Side bike path to be pretty patchy, plus it means a fair eastward diversion.

  • This is great news, confirming what appeared to be the case based on casual observation.

    I will choose the West Side Greenway when riding from the UES to a location south of 14th Street on the West Side, or south of Houston on the west or east sides (i.e., trips of greater than 5 miles). I have timed myself on a few occasions and I think it’s faster than Fifth or Second Avenue on weekday mornings.

    I also choose the Greenway for shorter trips when traveling with kids or carrying substantial cargo, to avoid the stress that heavy traffic would pose in those situations. And in approximately 50+ trips down the Greenway to the City Hall area made around 8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. over the last year, I can never remember a serious inconvenience or danger due to joggers or rollerbladers. Sure, they often fail to follow the “keep right” rule, but it is always the case that a slight adjustment of course and speed will allow me to safely pass.

  • Doug

    It might also have something to do with the city getting younger. As the city’s economy improved (at least until recently) and the city gentrified, many younger people stayed to raise families. I’m not sure if the number of young people necessarily increased — I don’t know the statistics — but if it did, then that would have to be accounted for. Not that it’s necessarily huge, but I bet it might account for some of those riders. Younger people are probably more likely to get on their bikes to commute than older people.

  • gecko

    Great news! It seems obvious that Manhattan would benefit terrifically from an East Side Greenway like the one on the west.

    Can’t help but dream about one straight down the center of the island as well.

  • mfs

    It’s pretty clear from the data that the places that the city has invested in improving and providing new protected bike access (Williamsburg Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and Hudson Greenway) have all paid off. In particular, the Williamsburg Bridge has gotten much more traffic now that the menacing expansion joint bumps are gone. It will be interesting to see how the new bike lanes help.

  • borham



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