A Brief History of New York City Mayors on Bicycles

Six months into his second term, Bill de Blasio became the first New York mayor since Ed Koch to be recorded riding a bicycle, or at least the first one to leave a record that Google image search is capable of retrieving.

Photo: Eric Phillips
Photo: Eric Phillips

Mayor de Blasio was in the Rockaways this morning to announce the first of four dockless bike-share pilot areas. We’ll be running reader reviews of the different services on offer — stay tuned. For now, the big news is that six months into his second term, de Blasio has finally been spotted riding a bicycle.

The mayor biked the last leg of his trip to the press conference, side by side with Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

Based on the footage reporters posted to Twitter, de Blasio acquitted himself well on a Pace bike, despite what appears to be a seatpost set a little too low for his 6’5″ frame (which might be the highest setting available). I personally approve of the decision to go helmetless on a hot summer day biking on a nearly empty boardwalk.

While it took a few years to reach this moment, congratulations are in order. De Blasio is the first New York mayor since Ed Koch to be recorded riding a bicycle, or at least the first one to leave a record that Google image search is capable of retrieving.

There are a few images on the internet of Mayor Bloomberg on a bicycle, but you can’t find one where he’s pedaling. Rudy Giuliani and David Dinkins, meanwhile, do not appear in the same frame as a bicycle in any online photo.

You have to go back 38 years, to this grainy black and white photograph of Ed Koch ringing in the short-lived Sixth Avenue protected bike lane in October 1980, to see another mayor caught in the act of bicycling.

Mayor Ed Koch in October 1980.
Mayor Ed Koch in October 1980.

Abe Beame apparently wasn’t a bike mayor — this is the closest thing to a picture of him with a bicycle.

But John Lindsay, mayor during the first Earth Day in 1970 and responsible for the first car-free hours in Central Park, gave posterity this beautiful photograph:

Next step for de Blasio: Riding a bike on the street with traffic. The mayor’s on a roll this week bike policy-wise, but there’s nothing like experiencing the stresses of New York City cycling first hand to make you a believer in the need for better bike infrastructure and an all-out effort to get cops out of bike lanes.

  • Geck

    I remember see Bill de Blasio in bike shorts at Little League open day festivities in Prospect Park when he was a council member. I didn’t see him ride though. Nor can I remember seeing his bike.

  • com63

    Nice work! Good thing he wasn’t on an Ofo bike. The seat posts on those do not accommodate tall people at all.

    Cue Fox News story about DeBlasio showing his recklessness by not wearing a helmet in 3…2…1…

  • Jeffrey Baker

    What is Koch wearing in that photo? It looks like a floatation vest.

  • cjstephens

    For some reason, this article made me very happy. Keep up the good work!

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    Pleasantly surprised to see an American public official riding a city bicycle without a helmet on!

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Toeing the NBBL Line, Bill de Blasio Runs for Mayor of 9 PPW

|
Bill de Blasio’s comments in today’s Brooklyn Paper are straight out of the “Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes” playbook. To a question about whether he would dedicate space for biking and walking as mayor, de Blasio replied: The motivation [for bike lanes] has been noble but the approach has often been without the kind of communication […]

Mayor de Blasio, Inequality, and Reforming NYC’s Streets

|
One of the most insightful questions of the 2013 campaign season came two weeks ago, when WNYC’s Brian Lehrer asked Bill de Blasio if he considered transportation policy “one of his tools to fight inequality.” De Blasio, who overwhelmed his opponents this election cycle by appealing to New Yorkers’ sense of economic fairness, gave this […]