Bicyclists In New York City & DC Doubled In 4 Years

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Washington DC and New York City have sprung to the forefront of a recent Census Statistics release. Each city has improved bicycle infrastructure and shown swiftly rising numbers of bicyclists. The cities have enhanced some networks of modern protected bike lanes, and bicyclists are using them as quickly as they appear. Census figures published recently show a doubled rate of bike commuting between 2009 and 2013.

growth 2009-2013

Washington has a collection of protected lanes and painted lanes, and the expanding bicycle culture swiftly fills the lanes and paths with each addition and improvement.

People for Bikes notes: “Washington DC vaulted to 4.5 percent of commutes by bicycle in 2013, up from 2.2 percent in 2009. Among major U.S. cities, that estimate would place DC second only to Portland, Oregon as a bike commuting hub.”

“DC has been coming up strong for several years,” said Darren Flusche, policy director for the DC-based League of American Bicyclists, in an interview. “It’s the nation’s capital; I keep waiting for someone to say they’re the nation’s bike capital.”

Washington is the leader. However, New York City, with 1.2%, is up from 0.6% in 2009. The actual number is 46,000 daily bike commuters, about as many as Portland and DC combined. New York added an estimated 10,000 bike commuters in 2013 alone, its fifth straight year of growth. Those 10,000 net new bike commuters in New York accounted for essentially the entire nationwide increase in bike commuting in 2013.


People for Bikes continues: “Flusche credited the Michael Bloomberg administration, led by former Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, for rapidly dedicating miles of space on New York streets for painted or protected bike lanes. The 2013 figure reflects the effects of the first six months of Citi Bike, the wildly popular bike share system launched last year in Manhattan.”

“I think we’re finally seeing the benefits of those decisions made as far back as ’09, ’10, ’11,” Flusche said.

DC also benefits from a strong and growing bikeshare program, but it was launched earlier and not on the same scale as Citi Bike.

As the League of American Bicyclist tells us, “Bikesharing is one of the most sustainable transportation investments out there. That makes it a very good use of tax-payer capital funds.”

The Census numbers of bicycle commutes show nearly twice as many men as women biking. However, women outnumber men as pedestrians by a narrow margin. It seems women walk more.

In New York, bicyclists became part of rescue services getting into places that cars were not able to during the crisis of Sandy. In the midst of the disaster recovery, one found many faces on bikes, sharing bikes, and bringing in food on cargo bikes.

DC’s Capital Bikeshare is a Red Hot Success Story in One Year shares a similar story: “The Washington Post reported that after last week’s earthquake, ridership tripled between 2pm and 4pm, compared to the previous day! When traffic snarls were reported all through DC, bikers did not have too many complaints! CaBi has become another means of getting around for DC workers and residents, that is environmentally friendly and carbon friendly!

Related Stories:

New Intersection Designs

Biking & Transit Soar In Washington, DC 

NYC’s Citi Bike Data Visualized — Like Beautiful Choreography

Strava Labs Presents Heat Maps of Bicycling & Running

Image Credit: People for Bikes

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Cynthia Shahan

Cynthia Shahan, started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. Words can be used improperly depending on the culture you are in. (Several unrelated publications) She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, Creative Writing, and was tutored in Art as a young child thanks to her father the Doctor.

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2 thoughts on “Bicyclists In New York City & DC Doubled In 4 Years

  • Census data is notoriously poor in regards to commuting numbers. First, it only counts commute trips by a single mode, so if 40% was by bike and 55% was by transit and 5% was by walking, the Census only counts one of those. Second, pecent commute by bike is not uniform across any city. Parts of Portland are 1% or less, while close in east side is 15% or better. Percent commute only gets part of the picture, since ease of use and connectivity of the system are also highly variable. Last, how does the land area between the jurisdictions compare?

  • Glad to see Tucson did so well in this study. But maybe it isn’t such a surprise. We do have a lot of people pedaling around down here and there appears to be more than ever in recent years (and I’m in that statistical block, getting back on a bike for daily commuting in late 2012.) It helps that we have near perfect weather year round. Hot summers keep many bikes off the streets then, but the so-called “winter” down here is pure heaven, with daytime temps that are more like what the rest of the US experiences during spring. There’s also the very flat terrain.

    Rain is also rare, so the fenders you see on those newer trendy commuter bikes
    are not really needed (they always seem to take those web ad photos for these bikes in perpetually wet places up north, featuring nice looking youngsters who look like they could also be dressed for a day of snowboarding.) There seems to be a bike shop on every corner here – both excellent “mom & pop” operations and national chains – and a used bike collective, Bicas, that also thrives (found a handlebar stem there the other day for $3 that certainly would have cost ten times that amount or more, if purchased new.) There are several noted custom frame-builders located here catering to the higher end clientele and, for the competitive cyclist, the annual El Tour De Tucson is one of the more popular annual long distance racing events.

    The city and county has been proactive in building dedicated bike path infrastructure over the last decade or so. The challenge is that the town is so spread out, thanks to sprawl that went unchecked in the last half of the 20th century, that those excellent paths can sometimes feel disconnected to each other,
    depending upon where you actually have to go. It’s still a work in progress but,
    optimistically, it’s something that appears to be moving ahead quite nicely and only getting better.

    A newly installed Modern Streetcar system in the downtown area is a bit of a double edge sword. On one hand, wheeling your bike inside is encouraged (certainly better than having strap it onto the front of the city buses,) but the
    route has intruded onto what was (still is) largely one of the major dedicated biking
    corridors. Some bicyclist actively resent the new intrusion of a streetcar, but it
    now takes only a little extra effort to get around that part of town on any
    number of shady side streets.

    It did take a fairly extensive education campaign as well to teach cyclists not to get their narrow wheels caught in the grooves of the streetcar track. Word has it that Portland (where our streetcars got built) got this one right, with protected tracks that defy trapping bike wheels. The bean counters who budgeted the streetcar here probably didn’t think we would need them, but they might be regretting that decision now.

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