How Would You Make the Five Boroughs Bikeable for More New Yorkers?

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.

Not bike-friendly enough: NYC didn't move up to the next level of bike-friendly cities this year. Photo: Missy S./Flickr
NYC needs to expand its bike network and the reach of its bike-share system to move up the bike-friendly city rankings. Photo: Missy S./Flickr

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.

  • What are you talking about “10 blocks out of the way”? The pedestrian entry to the Manhattan Bridge is about two blocks away from the bicycle entry on the Brooklyn side and only a block away on the Manhattan side.

    On the Williamsburg Bridge, the pedestrian entry is two blocks from the bicycle entry on the Brooklyn side. On the Manhattan side, the pedestrian and bike entries are in the exact same place; they diverge while on the bridge.

    Separation of pedestrians and bicycles on the bridges is the ideal configuration, as the chaotic commingling on the Brooklyn Bridge shows. We all need to respect our infrastructure; people who walk or ride on the wrong side of these bridges are committing acts of abuse for which there is no excuse. (In practice, pedestrians do this more than bicyclists do; and it happens more on the Williamsburg Bridge than on the Manhattan Bridge.)

  • Matt G.

    Do away with the “Cyclists have all the rights and are subject to all of the duties and regulations applicable to drivers of motor vehicles.” because it is lazy, inaccurate and a cause for confusion. There are many distinct differences between cars and bike and there are so many exceptions to the above statement already. I would get the state to write sensible guidelines for NYC cyclists that recognize their unique personal risks, limitations and benefits to urban transportation. Furthermore, the enforcement of motor vehicle regulations is administered very differently than bicycle regulations.

    Exception 1: Bicycles are not subject to the same duties and regulations of drivers of motor vehicles including: they need not carry a license, insurance, registration, license plates, turn signals, or otherwise prove their vehicle is roadworthy, or prove their competency to operate a bicycle.

    Incongruity 1: Bicycle code (Sec 34, Article 1235) states “No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle, or article which prevents the driver from keeping at least one hand upon the handle bars.” Section 34 Article 1237 states you must signal R turns with your right and left turns with your L hand. How can the law legally provide for carrying a package in one hand, while leaving the hands free for signaling and still keep a hand on the bars? Bike code doesn’t even make sense.

    Incongruity 2: Enforcement inequity – No police would allow a large portion of cars to operate at night without adequate head and tail lights, the enforcement of “mandatory lights at night” must be upheld for bikes too. Furthermore, If bikes are to be considered “subject to the same duties as cars” then the DOT must publish a guideline for adequate lighting for bikes.

    Exception 3: There is no DOT of DMV published guideline equivalent to the NYS Drivers Manual (MV21) or NYS Motorcycle Operators Manual (MV-21MC) for Bicycle riders. Many guidelines from the NY Motorcycle Operators Manual (MV-21MC) could be referenced for cyclists, however it is still not equivalent.

    Enforcement inequity 2: It is widely understood that Police do not ticket car drivers for driving above the speed limit until they are more than 10-15mph over (all over USA). Nor do they ticket bike lane blockers, u-turners and double parkers (in Brooklyn). And it was previously understood that they would not ticket cyclists who stop at reds and then continue so long as they are not in conflict with other traffic or peds (it appears this is changing).

    Exception 4: Bikes bike in bike lanes and enter traffic from the sidewalk, near cross walks, etc. These are specific operating conditions which pertain to bikes and not cars. Which need to be studied by the state who should in turn write a NYS bicycle riders manual.

    It is my personal opinion that “Drivers” (those who professionally drive for a living, including: taxis, delivery drivers, livery drivers, truckers, etc) should be held to a heightened standard by policy enforcers rather than receive special treatment and protections from POs.

  • Make more bike parking available! We’re working on a project trying to get the Department of Sanitation to change their policies to remove abandoned bikes from racks quicker. This would make more bike parking without spending any money on new bike racks.



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