City Must Invest More to Protect Cyclists amid Exciting News of Biking Boom

Statement of Executive Director Paul Steely White on DOT's "Cycling in the City” report

The new “Cycling in the City” report from the Department of Transportation provides new information about something we have known for some time: that more and more New Yorkers are choosing to get around on two wheels.

DOT’s figures show that New York City has seen a 320% increase in daily cycling since 1990, with the number of riders going from 100,000 a quarter century ago to 420,000 in 2014. The study not only finds that more and more city residents are biking to work, but interestingly, it also shows that they are increasingly using bikes to get around their neighborhoods. This is exciting evidence that the city is starting to see success in its effort to promote biking as a form of transportation, not just recreation.  

This growth is not a coincidence. It is the result of a boost in investment in bike infrastructure, especially in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Cycling rates continue to rise across the five boroughs, even as the bike lane network remains spotty. To meet this challenge, New York City needs equitable acceleration and expansion of the bike network in the Bronx and Staten Island, as well.

As three recent cyclist fatalities demonstrate, the city must do more to keep people on bikes safe. That means the administration must make a greater investment to create an integrated network of protected bike lanes. The DOT is off to a good start with its pledge to complete 15 miles of new protected bike lanes this year. That number must become a minimum going forward. Separated paths like those we’ve seen in the first phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign, and parking-protected lanes like the ones the city will begin installing on Amsterdam Avenue this month, should be standard treatments whenever the DOT fixes one of the city’s most dangerous streets.

To that end, the City Council has called for an increase of $52.4 million in the DOT’s operating budget for projects in dangerous priority locations. The Council also called for the integration of street safety improvements into the resurfacing program. Council members further urged the administration to increase the DOT capital budget by $240 million annually to expedite street safety redesigns. We renew our call on the administration to adopt those recommendations. If Mayor de Blasio is going to reach his goal of doubling biking by 2020, he will need to invest more to make streets safer for all users, so more New Yorkers will feel secure about bicycling.

The Mayor will also have to take bold action to transform law enforcement attitudes and root out the NYPD’s systemic bias against people who ride bikes. The Department continues to misdirect its scarce enforcement resources by disproportionately focusing ticketing blitzes on cycling violations, rather than on the careless and reckless driving behaviors that cause most of the crashes that kill and maim New Yorkers. The NYPD must get serious about enforcing right of way and keeping bike lanes clear of cars. Finally, Police Commissioner Bratton must rein in anonymous police sources who make comments to news outlets blaming cyclists for their own deaths before crash investigations are even complete. This all-too-common practice sends a message to the public that people on bikes have no legitimate place on our streets, and no right to expect protection from law enforcement.