FISCAL YEAR FAILURE: De Blasio’s DOT Installed Just 642 Bike Racks

Lucky you, you found a bike rack. Photo by Dave Colon
Lucky you, you found a bike rack. Photo by Dave Colon

Turns out there’s one kind of parking the mayor doesn’t care about: Bike parking.

The Department of Transportation installed just 642 bike racks between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, according to the just-issued Mayor’s Management Report, a drop of 1,000 bike racks compared to the year before and a continuing lag in installation in the so-called de Blasio Era.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of city life since March, but the bike rack installation numbers for Fiscal Year 2020 were dire compared to what’s come before. The pre-de Blasio Department of Transportation installed over 3,000 bike racks per year in Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014, but the has only installed more than 2,000 bike racks twice under the current Vision Zero mayor (2,408 in FY15 and 2,018 in FY17).

The 642 bike racks installed in FY2020 are the fewest the city has installed since the July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018 period (FY 2018), when the DOT only installed 804 racks.

“Let’s hope this is the all time trough,” Bike New York tweeted, along with a graphic the shows decreasing interest by the de Blasio administration to build bike racks.

The city’s stated goal is to install 1,500 bike racks per year, but Bike New York has previously pointed out that even that target is woefully small for a city with the population of New York. Such a target in a city with a population of 8.4 million people means that each year, there would be 17.8 new bike racks per 100,000 people — anemic compared to the 201 new-rack-per-100,000 people in Seattle or the 135.7-rack-per-100,000 people in San Francisco that such a target would create.

Bike New York also showed that bike rack installation has not kept up with the pace of bike lane installation across the city, thus giving cyclists a place to ride, but no place to stop.

via Bike New York
Graphic: Bike New York

Bike parking remains a serious issue. In neighborhoods with lots of restaurants, for example, working cyclists have nowhere to store their bike (looking at you, W. 56th Street). Elsewhere, it simply discourages cycling.

“Not having a place to lock up is among the biggest barriers to choosing to ride a bike in New York,” said Transportation Alternatives spokesman Joe Cutrufo. “It’s a shame that the year of the bike boom is turning out to be such a dud for bike parking.”

In addition to regular bike rack installations, the city’s attempts at creating secure bike parking and bike rack corrals in parking spots have also not achieved liftoff. According to the DOT’s bike corral website, in calendar year 2019, the city only installed four corrals, which replace parking spots that can fit just a single car with bike racks that can fit many bikes.

The city has added zero bike corrals so far this year.

Critics have blamed the slow installation on the fact that residents or businesses have to volunteer to look after the bike parking, and community boards have to approve converting even a single car parking spot for a corral.

Safe streets activist Doug Gordon suggested that the city speed things up on this program by using its own outdoor dining program as a model, and allowing businesses or residents to quickly install corrals without having to wait around for community board approval.

And the city’s attempt at secure bike parking also stalled in 2020 after the de Blasio administration spent years insisting that a pilot would actually get off the ground. After announcing a secure bike parking pilot in 2017, the DOT said this year that it was financially unfeasible to install staffed shipping containers in Manhattan and on the Brooklyn/Queens border, leaving bikes out in the elements and at the mercy of bike thieves.

The city has not, so far, attempted to pivot to working with an unmanned secure bike parking station like Oonee, despite the clear need for it. According to the NYPD, the bike boom has also led to a bike theft boom, to the tune of an 18 percent increase in bike thefts in 2020 compared to 2019.

The DOT did not respond to a request for comment regarding the pace of bike rack installation in Fiscal Year 2020 prior to the pandemic.

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