Chart of the day, NYC biking edition

December 10, 2011


This is a chart of the number of bike commuters in New York. It’s known as the NYC Commuter Cycling Indicator, and it comes from surveys taken ten times per year at predetermined points around the city. It doesn’t give a good count of the number of bike commuters in New York, but it gives an excellent idea of the trends: bike commuting has essentially quadrupled in the past decade, and has doubled over the past four years. Which just happen to be the four years during which Janette Sadik-Khan has run the Department of Transportation.

This is important because it shows just how effective strong leadership can be, when combined with a dedication to creating good infrastructure. And if you delve a bit into the numbers behind the indicator, this comes out even more clearly. For instance: in 2007, the Queensboro Bridge saw an average of 1,292 cyclists per day, about 80% of the 1,626 cyclists per day on the Brooklyn Bridge. By 2011, the Queensboro number had shot up to 2,904 bikers per day — 25% more than the 2,322 cyclists crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. That’s entirely a function of the fact that the Brooklyn Bridge is unpleasant for cyclists, despite the fact that by dint of its location it should be one of the busiest bike corridors in the city.

The lesson of this chart, then, is that if you build bike lanes, cyclists will appear to fill them. That’s fantastic news, since cities with lots of cyclists are always the most pleasant cities to live and work in — even for people who don’t bike themselves. New York City has a long way to go before it can be considered genuinely bike-friendly. But it’s moving in the right direction, and the bike-sharing scheme to be launched next year will provide a massive boost. Let’s hope that now Sadik-Khan has provided the necessary momentum, her successors embrace and extend what she has started.


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