Strong Safety Record for NYC Bike-Share Should Come as No Surprise

The Times’ good-news story this morning, “No Riders Killed in First 5 Months of New York City Bike-Share Program,” could almost have been written a year ago. In fact, it was, sort of, in this space. In June 2012, Streetsblog published my piece pooh-poohing predictions of looming traffic carnage. We followed that with a similar post as the curtain was going up on bike-share in May.

Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/planetgordon/8860360377/sizes/m/in/photolist-euXEs6-6fHBA9-6aB6Nf-6ejyXj-6aiCAP-6aQG2w-6hFKd6-6iAJpg-fz77QT-fz77L4-fz77Xx-fz78in-fzmqYL-fz78kM-fzmqNh-fz789t-fzmrcE-fzmqXd-fz78n2-fz78pB-9rSYZF-65wviz-65wvrk-65AMxQ-gyFVjt-68We59-68WuR9-6hy1Un-6hy1dT-6hy3XV-6hxZZa-6hy2fc-6hy1p6-6hy4rv-6hy3jT-6hy6hB-6hy5KF-6hCcvW-6hy1yK-66Xrz2-672b1N-672bYd-66Xrma-672Jis-66WW9F-672cuU-6b4ZGG-6aLxdM-eC4iYi-6iJn9v-6iNvVS/##Planetgordon/Flickr##

We weren’t exactly rolling the dice with those posts. We knew that there was already so much cycling in New York City without Citi Bike that even a hugely successful bike-share program would only register across the five boroughs as a minor uptick. Citi Bikers would have to be incredibly reckless, or luckless, or both, for their modest boost to overall NYC cycling to translate into the spate of deaths that the naysayers were forecasting.

To see why the absence of Citi Bike fatalities and the paucity of serious injuries have been no, er, accident, we’re going to pry open some numbers — comparing injury rates and cycling levels for Citi Bike and NYC cycling as a whole. (Injuries are a better lens than fatalities because they’re orders of magnitude more common and, thus, less subject to random fluctuation.)

From May 27 through November 1, a period spanning 158 days, Citi Bike users racked up nearly 9.8 million miles, according to NYC Bike Share, or an average of 62,000 per day. In contrast, during all of 2012, total city cycling averaged 1.6 million miles a day, according to my estimates. That figure has been criticized as too generous (I’m working on a new estimating approach, but it’s months from fruition), so let’s knock it down to an even million. Then for each day in 2012, all NYC cyclists racked up 16 times as many miles as have Citi Bikers on each day to date.

Now let’s compare injuries. According to the Times’ Matt Flegenheimer, city authorities tabulated 3,675 bicycle-vehicle collisions in 2012, or 10 per day. (I don’t have 2012 injuries, so Flegenheimer’s collision figure, which he shared with me in researching his story, will have to do.) Today Flegenheimer reported “about two dozen [Citi Bike] injuries” in the program’s first 158 days. That’s a daily rate of 0.15 Citi Bike injuries, which is 66 times less than overall NYC bike injuries.

We now combine injury rates and mileage rates. If Citi Bike riding is 1/16 as prevalent as overall city cycling, while its injury frequency is 1/66 as great, then Citi Bike’s rate of miles-per-injury is around four times that of “regular” cycling. (Replace my “conservative” 1 million mile daily figure for city cycling with my published 1.6 million, and the per-injury mileage ratio of 4.1 becomes a still-impressive 2.6.)

The next question is why — why are Citi Bike riders able to average about four times as many miles per injury-crash as other NYC cyclists? Here are five possible hypotheses:

  • Safety in numbers
  • Other differences between the bike-share area and NYC
  • Differences between Citi Bikes and regular bikes
  • Differences between Citi Bikers and regular bikers
  • The Citi Bike imprimatur

Safety in numbers: Far and away the biggest reason for the observed three- or four-fold difference in injury rates, in my view, is safety in numbers: the tendency of drivers to become more mindful of cyclists’ presence and more respectful of their rights when cyclists are more numerous and are an expected part of the road environment.

Some analyses have inferred a “0.6 power law,” meaning the distance or time that a given cyclist can ride without being struck by a driver rises with the 0.6 power of the increase in cycling. Thus, if “Zone A” has five times as much cycling as “Zone B,” the number of miles between a cyclist’s crashes with a vehicle should be “five raised to the 0.6 power,” or 2.6 times, as great in Zone A as in Zone B. While I don’t know relative cycling levels in the bike-share area vs. citywide, a factor of five may be a decent approximation. If so, then the two- to three-fold difference in miles-between-crashes associated with safety in numbers would explain most of the observed difference in injury rates between Citi Biking and regular cycling.

Other differences between the bike-share area and NYC: Naturally occurring lower speeds in the Manhattan Central Business District and West Brooklyn, dictated by street layout and congested traffic, should reduce crash rates.

Citi Bike differences: Compared to the average bicycle in service across New York City, Citi Bikes are slower, are better lit and have more reliable brakes.

Citi Biker differences: Far from inhabiting the hapless tourist/newbie tabloid stereotype, people riding Citi Bikes seem mindful of the challenges inherent in city riding. As for veteran riders using Citi Bikes, some have spoken of an “ambassador effect” inspiring them to be more observant of road rules.

The Citi Bike imprimatur: Based on scattered anecdotal evidence, the fact that bike-share is a publicly provided amenity and an actual part of municipal infrastructure may be spilling over into increased acceptance of the blue bikes and the people riding them.

I had hoped to conclude with an estimate of the a priori probability that on May 27, when the first Citi Bikes rolled, the Times could have confidently run its “no fatalities” headline as a prediction for the first 158 days of bike-share. Unfortunately, Nate Silver is off riding River Road today, and I promised to reel him in before he crests the Alpine Approach Road. So we’re out of time. We’ll run that number next time.

  • ctp

    i posit that there’s the “OMG, there’s a citibiker, they mustn’t have any idea what they’re doing, i’d better slow down/give them extra room/expect the unexpected” effect that also contributes to the safer statistical nature of citibiking.

  • “Citi Biker differences”

    I think of them as being less aggressive and more cautious. I don’t think of them as the ones squeezing between two vehicles with just inches to spare. I see them as going a little out of their way and choosing the streets with bike lanes.

  • Rabi Abonour

    It’s ironic that people are so worried about the behavior of people riding bikes that, by their very nature, are difficult to ride aggressively.

  • Anonymous

    Looking just at your 2012 numbers, I find the 539k daily trips for non commercial riders highly suspect. Maybe I’m Manhattan centric with my observations, but pre CitiBike I’d have guessed roughly parity between commercial (delivery and bike messenger) and non commercial riders. 12.3 times the screenline number is based on an estimate based on an estimate from 1992.. 12x the screenline number for Brooklyn? So one round trip commuter (bkln -> cbd = 2 trips) counts as 12 in your stats on Brooklyn and 10 trips for CBD?

    I realize it’s hard to get accurate within boro stats, but the multiplier factors here are too important to be estimated so freely.

  • Anonymous

    Glad you followed the link to my spreadsheet estimating NYC bike trips and miles. The *methodology* is from 1992 but the 12.3 ratio you cited was updated. The premise is that for every trip that crosses a NYCDOT screenline into or out of the CBD, there are 12 trips somewhere in NYC (including in the CBD) that don’t. The “12” isn’t plucked from the air, it’s derived.

    Nevertheless, I agree w/ your closing criticism of my multipliers. That’s why I’m working on a new approach. Note also that DOT is somewhat facile when they impute the rate of increase in the screenline crossings to be the rate of increase for all of NYC. I think the latter has been less than the former.

  • David McKay Wilson

    i think one of the major reasons there are fewer injuries is that the bikes are big and heavy… and slow. It’s speed that causes many bicycle injuries, and Citibikes just can’t go fast, That in turn puts the riders in a different frame of mind, and tends to make it safer.

  • Anonymous

    Your MOM’S an imprimatur.

    Boy I wish I had kept a record of the more spectacular predictions of carnage I’d heard. At least last night at CB6 I got to hear one person’s masterful skill with verbal imagery as she wished out loud for all bikes in NYC to be burned on a funeral pyre…

  • Bikirl

    Whatever it is, it’s working!

  • Anonymous

    well.. the 12 is derived from other numbers estimated per boro.. either way, we all need more data.. If only the DOT would put those counting devices in the bike lanes.

  • guest

    I’ve been biking in NYC for a few years and am also a CitiBike member. I’m happy about the program’s success and hope it expands. With that said, in my experience CitiBike users, or at least a specific subgroup in my neighborhood, are NOT more careful than other NYC cyclists. Great majority of people taking out bikes from the station on E 6th St and Ave B in East Village proceed towards Ave A on E 6th, going the wrong way. MANY do so while texting. I don’t know if this is just something about self-centered yuppies in this neighborhood being dumb jerks, but I’m shocked there have been so few accidents, and I do think this is largely due to drivers becoming more careful, even when cyclists aren’t. Overall, I see many more people on CitiBikes than ‘regular’ cyclists texting / playing with their phones while biking, and it drives me up the wall.

  • Joe R.

    Another factor here might be the fact that Citibikes are rented bikes. I’ve always tended to be a lot more careful when I’m riding someone else’s bike. It’s not that I’m reckless when riding my own. Far from it. Rather, I just don’t do things at all riding someone else’s bike where’s there’s potential for something to go wrong, like riding fast if the street is in poor condition, or sprinting past 30 mph to make a light. I do all of these things uneventfully on my own bike all the time, but I also acknowledge there’s a vanishingly small chance something I didn’t anticipate could gum up the works, perhaps a stray animal running across my path, or maybe wet leaves blowing under my tires. On someone else’s bike, I ride in such a way that I can avoid even highly unlikely events. I suspect many Citibike riders make a similar calculus.

  • Eddie

    I also see lots of Citi Bikers riding with headphones in both ears.

  • Daphna

    What happened last night at the Transportation Committee of Manhattan Community Board 6 with public committee member (but not a full Board member) Bob Cohen’s anti-bike motion????

  • Neil Fabricant

    Hi Charlie: Well-I couldn’t follow the math but it conjured up images of Amsterdam’s silent symphony of bikes, cars, trams, and pedestrians, not to mention the visual impact of the boats, everyone streaming past and alongside one another without traffic lights, horns, or even raised voices. Mothers with small babies in baskets on the handlebars, little kids riding their own bikes, inches from car bumpers, dressed up men and women in heels going to work or out to dinner, old people, no helmets, no spandex. A subtle but maybe powerful democratizing effect. Safety in numbers, yes, but vulnerable bikes rule–an accepted part of the culture to the point that nobody even thinks about it.

  • Anonymous

    I’d agree with the assessment that CitiBike is still limited to the safer areas for cycling within NYC. Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn, though intimidating, has far fewer bike accidents than, say, East Williamsburg, or Crown Heights — two neighborhoods that have been historically dangerous for cyclist/automobile interactions — where there are non-supportive police precincts and no CitiBike racks, yet.

    Second, the cumbersomeness and slowness of CitiBikes themselves severely limit a cyclist from even thinking about maneuvering the big blue clunkers like our svelte and sharp road and track bikes. Another Boon to the CitiBike program.

    Third, while the mentality of city cyclists are far more accustomed to adapting to changing road and traffic demands (a confidence which may increase our chances of making poor decisions), the average CitiBiker is generally an inexperienced city cyclist, and not as confident, which leads them to be more cautious cyclists (albeit with less common sense than your average city cyclist).

    I do take issue with your statement that CitiBikes have “more reliable brakes” than other bikes. I am a CitiBike member, and a long-standing city cyclist, and the brakes on those CitiBikes assure that I won’t be riding too fast. Those brakes are basically MUSH and at times make me feel like I’m trying to slow a semi on an off-ramp from a large interstate. But, this may also contribute to my second and third points.

  • guest

    It may be that they’re worse (and dumber) in some respects than other cyclists, e.g. headphones and phone use, but seek out bike lanes and go slower because of the bikes’ weight. Interesting.

  • Jesse

    Mr Komanoff,

    Can you use your bike-mile numbers to do a comparative analysis of injuries and deaths per VMT caused by bikes vs those caused by cars. I’d really like to see some numbers on that to dispell the insane notion that we’re all going to die by an apocolypic wave of red-light-running spandex-clad salmon.

  • Anonymous

    Download the spreadsheet w/ the link in the 4th graf (“my estimates”). Navigate to the last section (#5) of the first tab (“Citywide”), for absolute and relative miles biked and miles driven in NYC. That’ll give you denominators to normalize whatever pedestrian collision data you dig up. Let me know what you find.

  • Cold Shoaler

    More careful when you borrow a bike from someone you know, perhaps. Not that I hit 30 sprinting for anything, but I ride that citi bike like the cobalt rented mule that it is. From what I’ve seen other riders do, plus my experience of other public amenities, I don’t think I’m the only one.

    And the ‘better brakes’ theory is bunk.

  • Anonymous

    You might be careful on a rented bike, say if they take a deposit and inspect it when you return. Not on a bike share bike, when there’s no consequence for damage. Not that it’s easy to damage those things. For instance, I for one know that I’ll take bike share on slushy days, to keep the salt and grime off of my own bike. And I know I’m less concerned if I take a pothole hard on a bike share bike than on my own bike.

  • Anonymous

    I know for my own self that I’m less likely to thread my way through tight spaces, cause those things are so damn big and hard to maneuver. And I’m more likely to take a bike lane because those things are so slow and cumbersome, that I’m not inclined to try to mix it up with traffic.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I think deaths by cyclists correlate with press coverage encouraging hostility to cyclists. There was less of that this summer.

  • Anonymous

    Mr Komanoff,

    You cannot accurately predict the total number of bicyclists in NYC by the screening numbers. That is using a inaccurate methodology.

    An average distance that people are willing to ride a bicycle is under 2 miles. The average distance of a person bicycling in the Netherlands is about 1.9 miles. Los Angeles County MTA surveys of passengers using a bicycle found a average distance of traveling to a train or BRT station was about 1.8 miles.

    For five years in a row the Census Bureau American Community Survey has estimated that about 6% of commuters in Portland use a bicycle as the main means of transportation to work. Portland estimates that bicycling has about a 8% overall mode share. About 33% higher than the ACS survey results for commuters only.

    2012 ACS survey results for NYC show a 1% bicycle commuting modal share, or about daily 37,490 commuters. Your numbers of 185,000 people riding a bicycle daily in NYC is about 4.9 times that.

    If the ACS survey results in 2012 for NYC had a 6% bicycle commuting modal share, then that would be approximately 224,944 people using a bicycle as the primary means of commuting. Using your 4.9X multiplier that would translate to 4,851,297 people using a bicycle daily in NYC.

    The highest ACS commuting modal share by far in the U.S. is Davis California with about 15%. That percentage for NYC would be about 562,360 daily bicycle commuters. If we use your 4.9X multipler, then that would be 6,504,638 people using a bicycle in NYC daily, or over 2/3 the population.

    The highest bicycling mode share for any industrialized city in the world is probably Groningen in the Netherlands at 50%. So at a 15% bicycle commuting mode share, using your methodology would give a much higher overall bicycle mode share in NYC than Groningen.

  • Jonathan R

    Charles, thank you for the astute analysis, and I am sorry that Flegenheimer stuck you with the “avid biker” sobriquet.

    I believe that one safety feature is lacking from your analysis: multimodality. At times and in places that are not amenable to cycling, bike share customers can leave their bicycles without hassle and complete their trip by subway, bus or taxi. For instance, if customers are working late, they can take the subway home instead of bicycling outside of their comfort zone.

    I would be interested to find out if the evening rush hour has become less busy for bike share now that NYC is back on standard time and dusk comes around five p.m.

  • Jonathan R

    Charles, thank you for the astute analysis, and I am sorry that Flegenheimer stuck you with the “avid biker” sobriquet.

    I believe that one safety feature is lacking from your analysis: multimodality. At times and in places that are not amenable to cycling, bike share customers can leave their bicycles without hassle and complete their trip by subway, bus or taxi. For instance, if customers are working late, they can take the subway home instead of bicycling outside of their comfort zone.

    I would be interested to find out if the evening rush hour has become less busy for bike share now that NYC is back on standard time and dusk comes around five p.m.

  • BornAgainBicyclist

    Thank you, Charles. It’s great, and useful, to put some numbers and explanations behind the intuition about the relative safety of bikeshare. Are you able to estimate the effect of the fact that the Citi Bike area also has better, more comprehensive bicycle infrastructure than most of the are not covered?

  • BornAgainBicyclist

    If I’m not mistaken, ACS only measures commutes by bike, not overall usage, and therefore undercounts bike trips for other utilitarian purposes (like getting groceries, etc.), delivery cyclists who are on their bikes much of the day as part of their work (not insignificant numbers), locals who use bikes to travel to meet friends, etc., and locals and tourists out for longer recreational rides. That’s a lot of undercounting. Also please note that Komanoff used numbers that a reporter noted as coming from the city (presumably DOT?), not from ACS. I believe ACS also doesn’t count if you only use a bike for commuting some of the time. So, more undercounting. . .

  • BornAgainBicyclist

    I don’t see any evidence that the average Citi Biker is an inexperienced city cyclist — seems pretty mixed out there. Also, it doesn’t take long for people to get experienced, so it’s not like inexperienced folks’ handling skills and judgement are never going to improve. Riding isn’t that complicated and doesn’t take that much skill and experience to reasonably master for daily non-competitive riding.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t follow your arithmetic. How does applying a 4.9X multiplier to 224,944 yield 4,851,297, a number that is over 20 times larger?

  • Anonymous

    I agree that the statement about better brakes is unpersuasive. Recently, I replaced the ancient brake pads on my bike when I finally decided that they really, really sucked. They were still better than the brakes on Citibikes, in terms of stopping distance!

    That said, I do agree that Citibikes have better lights than the average bike, especially considering that many private bikes have no lights!

  • carma

    okay. ill admit. im guilty of riding with headphones in both ears. but i still watch everything else around me like a hawk.

    plus, i do keep the volume extremely low that i make sure i hear my surroundings.

  • Anonymous

    It was fun. That agenda item was never anything to worry about and so silly that both before and during the meeting, I debated bailing and going home even before getting my own turn to speak.

    One woman (not the funeral pyre lady) spoke at length with all these absurd and, frankly, stupid anti-bike arguments and even though they were stupid, their being aired at CB meeting provoked in me a reaction that was emotional enough that I had to speak. I muddled through my main theme that pretty much, bike haters virtually always care immeasurably less about actual safety than they care about their own vendetta. Sandy from CB6 and @brianvan (how do I Disqus tag him?!) did a good job of talking sense, and it was nice to notice that all three of us were more respectful towards NYPD (who were repped at the meeting by three senior officers) than the bike-haters were.

  • Anonymous

    I was using my calculator wrong when coming up with the 4.9X amount figures. I’ve corrected those numbers.

  • Anonymous

    Also, Bob’s motion did not concern an actual Resolution for the committee to consider, but was merely a discussion of his idea of NYPD creating a dedicated bike-enforcement squad. (My sources in Stockholm indicate it is NOT on the short list of consideration for a Nobel prize.)

    The thing is, and the thing that the Livable Streets community might do well to always remember, is that like the idea of requiring licenses for bike operators, if you take the population of people who only pay attention to their own narrow perspective (and unfortunately that includes most people), lots and lots and lots of those people are going to think that those are sensible and smart ideas! We’re all susceptible to that kind of thinking, and the people who come up with this crap are otherwise decent, imperfect people…

  • Note that earplugs / earbuds and headphones are two different things. Earplugs are OK as long as you have the volume such that you can still hear the sounds of the street, such as approaching vehicles, horns, and people’s voices. But I would say that headphones should never be used while riding.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting observation, Jonathan. And equally interesting question.

  • Anonymous

    I wish I could. Maybe the infrastructure difference is already subsumed / reflected in the higher rates of bike usage in the bikeshare area? Food for thought, at any rate.

  • Anonymous

    In my June 2012 post that I linked to in the first graf, I wrote this about one of the bike-share scaremongers:

    [L]ike many people who aren’t grounded in day-to-day cycling here, Prof. Pucher doesn’t grasp the true extent of NYC cycling at present. Indeed, in much of his academic work Prof. Pucher has slavishly adhered to U.S. Census “commute mode” data that ignore the multi-dimensional nature of cycling here — for errands, meetings, socializing, appointments, shopping, exercise, and just plain fun — and thus end up lowballing bicycling’s “modal share” by a factor of around four.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on that point, Dennis.

  • It’s not devices, it’s real people standing out there with a clipboard and a manual counter. I’ve seen them plenty of times. Wouldn’t be so cheap to implement this in other areas (or more often). Though it would be nice to put up a few digital counters on high-traffic points on the Hudson River Greenway to get a better gauge of the variation without the noise due to fluctuations in the weather on counting days.

  • Guest

    It is illegal to ride with more than one earbud or earplug in according to NYC law – it doesn’t just pertain to headphones. And no wonder – you are a danger to others when you cannot hear the people around you. I wouldn’t want someone to read this comment and think that it is legal because this commenter says that it’s OK

  • Anonymous

    Yet for some mysterious reason, it is legal to drive a car with your windows closed, A/C and radio on, which lets you hear even less of your surroundings than wearing headphones while riding a bike.

    I’m not defending wearing of headphones, and I never wear them, but I just want to point out the double standard.

  • Jonathan R

    Charles, I am glad you are working on another method to estimate the multipliers, because that’s a lot of handwaving on the “Boroughs” tab you’ve got there. A worthy goal would be to come up with some formulas for estimating total riding per Community Board from street-corner counting data, which could then be accomplished by volunteers. I would like to see ridership broken down by CB because the CBs are more homogenous than boroughs. If the formulas were made public, any group could go out and count the traffic and come up with its own estimates.

    Behind the multiplier question, it seems to me that the big policy question is whether to add bicycle infrastructure where cyclists already are, in order to serve an existing population; or to add bicycle infrastructure where cyclists aren’t, in order to make those areas accessible to bikes.

  • Ah, OK. Thanks for pointing that out. I say that we bicyclists ought to follow the law; so I also wouldn’t any bicyclists to think that I am advocating doing something illegal while riding.

    On the pure safety question, you are right that the key factor is the cyclist’s ability to hear what is around him/her. So a rider with earplugs at a low volume is not a danger to others.

    Still, that is not an excuse to break the law by using two earplugs, just as an assertion about one’s ability to safely cross intersections against the light is not an excuse to run red lights.

  • Anonymous

    It’s the digital counters I was referring to. I’ve seen ones altered to count bikes instead of cars before. I’d love to see them on the Ave bike lanes and other key bike travel routes.

  • Anonymous

    New York City conducts bicycle counts at a few select locations that do not accurately represent the average amount of bicyclists throughout the city per day. At the most you can see the rate of increase in bicycling over a period of time for only those count locations.

    Janette Sadik-Khan even admitted to a city council transportation committee meeting that the city has no idea how many daily bicycle trips there are in the city, nor do they know the number of daily car trips .

    The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition has conducted bicycle and pedestrian counts every other year in the city of Los Angeeles since 2009–they do this because the city does not count pedestrians or bicyclists.

    The recommended amount of intersections to be counted in order to get a accurate idea of the total amount of bicyclists is one intersection per 15,000 population. For the city of Los Angeles that would be 253 intersections.

    LACBC did counts at 33 intersections in 2011 (2013 data with 60 locations is not yet available). There was a wide variance in the number of bicyclists counted from 442 in a 2-hour peak AM period at a intersection near the USC campus–highest amount of on-street bicycling in the city–to a low of 19 bicycles counted at another location.

    That’s a difference of 23 times more for the USC area intersection compared to the lowest count location.

    The San Fernando and Tuxford intersection is a industrial area where a huge asphalt and aggregate plant is located. There are few pedestrians or bicyclists there at any given time.

    On page 20 of this pdf you can see the wide differences in intersection total numbers for the 3-two hour count periods.

    http://www.la-bike.org/sites/default/files/Websitefiles/2011_LABikeCountReport.pdf

  • Joe R.

    I was using the same set of brake pads on my Raleigh for 20+ years before I upgraded to a titanium Airborne I bought off eBay (great brakes on that, by the way). The fact that I usually anticipate things well in advance means I rarely need to use my brakes. I don’t think the “better brakes” theory on Citibikes holds any value, either, especially given the fact that those bikes aren’t moving all that fast to start with. It’s very rare I’ve actually needed all the stopping power my brakes could muster. The only two fairly recent instances which come to mind are when a car ran a red light a few weeks ago, and two years ago when a cat ran right across my path. Fortunately in both cases I had sufficient stopping power to avoid a mishap.

  • Joe R.

    Legal or not, I’m at at loss to understand why anyone would ride with either earplugs or earbuds. Maybe it’s just me, but I love the sound of wind whistling past my ears while I’m riding. It’s part of the whole sensory experience which makes cycling such a joy. I recall some rides out past city limits coming back in along 25 or 25A. Sunset in front of me, wind blowing past my ears, lungs, heart, and legs keeping a measured strong but steady tempo, scenery and street scenes moving by at 35 km/hr. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

  • Joe R.

    In terms of bike miles especially we can’t ignore recreational cyclists. A typical utility cycling trip might only be 2 or 3 miles while many recreational riders think nothing of going 20, 30, or even 50 miles. It’s probably not much of an exaggeration to say one recreational ride can have the same number of bike miles as 10 utility rides. Should we be counting bike trips or bike miles? I really feel the latter is more important both from a statistical and an infrastructure viewpoint. Miles ridden loosely translates into hours ridden. You usually use injuries/deaths per mile or per hour exposure, not per trip, when determining how safe a mode is. Infrastructure requirements are usually based on the number of vehicles per hour. If you know the total number of hours people ride bikes during the day, then you know roughly how many bikes might be on the road at any given time.

    I really feel ignoring non-commuting bike trips, especially recreational rides, grossly underestimates bike use, especially in the outer boroughs. Where I live I doubt all that many people commute to work by bike but I see a lot of recreational riders, along with a decent (and growing) number of delivery cyclists (mostly on e-bikes but that’s another story).

  • Cold Shoaler

    Interesting point. Not sure about NYC, but in other places I’ve lived it is illegal to drive with headphones.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll use another example of a large U.S. city–Portland–that conducts an extensive enough bicycle count to get a accurate picture of the number of bicycle trips per day in that city.

    First the Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) results for 2012 give an estimate of 307,935 workers age 16 years, or older.

    The commuting mode share for bicycling is 6.1%. That’s 18,784 bicycle commuters per day. If you count to and from work, then its about 37,568 trips a day.

    Portland conducted a bicycle count at 216 locations and extrapolated from that data that there are 190,000 daily bicycle trips. That’s about 5.06 times more than the 37,568 commuting trips I mentioned previously.

    http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/448401

    Assuming that New York City is at least somewhat comparable in the ratio of bicycle commute trips to total number of bicycle trips, I’ll go through a guesstimate of those numbers.

    The 2012 ACS results for New York City has a estimated 3,749,071 workers aged 16, or over.

    The bicycle commuting mode share is 1%, or 37,490. Multiply that times 2 for the back and forth trips and that number goes to 74,980.

    Extrapolate that out with the ratio of 5.06X more for the total number of daily bicycle rides and that takes us to 379,398. Yet, you estimate that there are 671,000 daily bicycle trips in NYC, or almost 1.77 times 379,398.

    Your estimate of 185,000 daily bicycle riders who in total take 671,000 trips a day is also probably way too high. That would be an average of 3.6 trips per person, which is not likely.

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Caption Contest: Chuck Schumer Rides the Prospect Park West Bike Lane

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Looks like protected bike infrastructure is growing on Chuck Schumer. High-powered backchannel NIMBY assault notwithstanding, New York’s senior senator apparently does enjoy riding the bike lane in his front yard, as you can see in this Sunday morning photo courtesy of fellow PPW resident Paul Steely White. So, when will the rest of Streetsblog’s 2011 April Fools […]
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Portland’s Long-Awaited Bike-Share System Gets Off to an Impressive Start

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Tuesday was a very exciting day in Portland, as the city celebrated the launch of its long-awaited bike-share system, Biketown. The network makes 1,000 bikes available in an eight-square mile area of the city. Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland shot these photos of the opening festivities and crunched some numbers from the first 24 hours of service. While it’s too early […]