Bicycle Coalition

The New York Times released a multi-media story on Monday titled More New Yorkers Opting for Life in the Bike Lane, showing how New York City’s commitment to installing high quality bicycle facilities and Vision Zero has yielded significantly increased ridership and safer streets.

Here are the main takeaways:

Higher Quality infrastructure does attract new cyclists

New York City has the most bicyclists of any city in the United States and the most bike lanes. Lanes have more than doubled since 2006 and New York has nearly as many miles of protected bike lanes as all lanes in 2006.

As biking has boomed, the city’s bike routes have grown to 1,133 miles from 513 miles in 2006, including 425 miles of protected bike lanes. The city has focused on bike safety as part of its Vision Zero campaign to eliminate traffic fatalities, committing to build an additional 50 miles of bike lanes every year, including 10 miles of protected bike lanes — a goal that it exceeded last year.

There were 46,057 commuters who primarily biked to work in 2015, or more than double the 16,468 in 2005.

Attracting a significantly greater number of people who bike to work regularly has been a goal of Philadelphia’s since the adoption of its Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan in 2010; seven years in, the percentage has moved from 1.6 percent to 2.1 percent.  More high quality protected bike lanes are needed to move that number to 6.5 percent, which is the City’s 2020 goal.

Six percent of commuters would translate into about 40,000 bicycle commuters. For Philadelphia to reach that goal, the Bicycle Coalition believes that a network of high quality bike lanes and trails giving residents easy access to Greater Center City from all directions need to be constructed as soon as possible. We have specifically proposed a network we call Hub and Spoke which would create a basic skeleton to connect people to business and employment opportunities by bicycle via high quality lanes and off-road trails. Hub and Spoke is shown in the below map, which is based on population density, ridership, and crash statistics. (Read all about Hub and Spoke here.)

Bicycle Coalition

Some Influential People weren’t happy with the lanes at first

Just like in Philadelphia, “Bikelash” is a thing in New York.  But New York City doesn’t always let complaints dictate what’s best.

In the past two years, proposals to add bike lanes in Manhattan and Queens have drawn opposition from residents. In an email to the community board on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Woody Allen, who lives in the neighborhood, said that while he was in favor of encouraging bicycling, “unfortunately the situation has gotten off to an unregulated start and is out of control.” The bike lane was built on his street anyway.

New Yorkers have additionally grown to love their bike lanes, as noted in the story.

New York City has gotten safer as bike infrastructure and bicyclists has surged

Those of us intrenched in this information know that more bicyclists and more infrastructure makes streets safer. Since New York’s infrastructure and bicycling population has surged so fast, they’ve seen, in real time, how much safer the city has become.

Nevertheless, a new city report shows that biking has become safer over all. The average rate of cyclists killed or severely injured in crashes with motor vehicles has significantly declined as bike ridership has surged. In 2016, there were 18 cyclist fatalities. [[BCGP note: There were 18 cyclist fatalities in New York City ten years earlier, in 2006, with one-third the number of cyclists.]]

The report identified 10 areas in Brooklyn and Queens with relatively little bike infrastructure and high numbers of fatalities and severe injuries as “priority bicycle districts.” City transportation officials said they would build, or improve, a total of 75 miles of bike lanes in those areas in the next five years.

Using bike lanes to help calm traffic and increase the safety of neighborhood streets underpins New York City’s approach and demonstrates that the approach works. The Bicycle Coalition has been advocating for a Vision Zero plan for Philadelphia over the last two years, and Mayor Jim Kenney made Vision Zero a priority of his administration, using engineering techniques to create safer transportation access for all road users. We expect to see the city’s final Vision Zero Action Plan later this year. Council President Darrell Clarke has actually introduced legislation for Vision Zero hearings and the City is still taking comments for their draft Vision Zero Plan. It’s important Philadelphia take note of how New York City’s have paid off and continue to implement 30 miles of protected bike lanes as part of their Vision Zero plan.  Philadelphia can and should continue to transform its bicycle facilities into a 21st Century bicycle network.

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