Cycling in the City: Cycling Trends in NYC

Posted by Content Coordinator on Monday, May 9th, 2016



Over the past two decades, New York City has seen tremendous growth in cycling, reflecting broad efforts to expand the city’s bicycle infrastructure. In the mid-1990s, NYC DOT established a bicycle program to oversee development of the city’s fledgling bike network. Since then, NYC DOT has led the charge to build an expansive network that serves an ever growing number of New Yorkers. These efforts were accelerated following the release of PlaNYC in 2007, which set ambitious goals toward creating a more sustainable city, and have been expanded further—with increased emphasis on transportation safety and equity—under the framework of OneNYC.

Since 2010, NYC DOT has expanded and enhanced the on-street bike network by nearly 300 miles, including more than 40 protected lane miles, with a record 12 miles installed in 2015. NYC DOT is on track to install even more protected lanes in 2016, with over 15 new miles planned.

Percent of Adult New Yorkers who Ride a Bike (NYC DOHMH)With this expansion of bicycle routes on City streets, along with the miles of new greenway paths in public parks, and the introduction of bike share, there have never been more people biking in New York City. Creation of local bike networks beyond the Manhattan core, in communities such as Long Island City and Brownsville, encourages people to use a bicycle to get around their own neighborhoods to run errands or visit friends. Development of new stretches of path along greenways such as the Brooklyn Waterfront and Bronx River makes it more enticing for cyclists to take recreational rides and provide comfortable spaces for parents with young children to go for family bike rides. Miles of protected on-street bike lanes are emboldening the more cautious and risk-averse New Yorkers to take to the streets on a bike, while Citi Bike makes cycling a more convenient option for quick trips around the city and multi-modal commutes—even for those who do not own a bicycle.

This Cycling in the City brief sees to answer two basic questions:

  • How frequently are New Yorkers using cycling as a mode of transportation?
  • How is that frequency changing over time?

Understanding who is biking in New York City and how often they ride is incredibly valuable, but cycling demographics and trends are very challenging to evaluate. Historically, evaluation of cyclist activity in New York City was centered on counting the number of bicycles entering and exiting the core. However, cycling has grown and matured dramatically as a mode of transportation since the first counts were conducted in 1980. New Yorkers are using bikes for a much wider variety of trips, making it even more difficult to assess bicycle use in the City.

In an effort to better understand the widening breadth of cycling, New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) partnered with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) to include several questions about cycling in NYC DOHMH’s annual Community Health Survey. Beginning in 2009, and expanding in 2013, these questions shed light on how frequently New York City residents cycle each day, each week, and each year, as well as for what purpose they bike. The survey results are an exciting new data source that provide insight into bicycle use across the city. By focusing on the cyclist and not the trip, the survey provides a more holistic approach to quantifying cycling activity, especially when used in combination with national surveys, on-going bike counts, and Citi Bike trip data. Taken as a whole, this information helps paint a more accurate picture of cycling in New York City than we have ever had before.

This brief examines these data sources in order to provide a snapshot of cycling in the city today and an evaluation of trends over time, providing a better understanding of how cycling has grown over the past decades.

Download full version (PDF): Cycling in the City

About the New York City Department of Transportation
“DOT’s mission is to provide for the safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible movement of people and goods in the City of New York and to maintain and enhance the transportation infrastructure crucial to the economic vitality and quality of life of our primary customers, City residents. Our agency’s work is guided by Sustainable Streets, the Strategic Plan for the New York City Department of Transportation. We are customer-driven in all our activities. We seek opportunities to create partnerships in the provision of transportation services through appropriate relationships and alliances.”

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