November 11, 2009

NYC bike commuting takes off

Yesterday I had a lovely ride home from work, cycling amid clusters of bikers fast and slow, all crossing the Manhattan Bridge en masse back into Brooklyn. It was something I've been noticing more and more since I started riding regularly last spring: the volume of bike traffic in New York has been growing tremendously — up 26 percent from last year, according to the latest city stats!

It's a phenomenon attributable both to the economy — thanks to Condé Nast budget cuts, even Self mag editor Lucy Danziger (above) is biking to work, the NYT reported recently — and to improved biking conditions, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg's amazing transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan. Profiled this spring in NY Mag, Sadik-Khan has shaken up the city's streets by adding 180 miles of bike lanes, closing off Times Square to traffic, and all in all making the city a safer place to bicycle.

Of course, this doesn't mean everyone's on board with the changes: On my daily rides, I often encounter police cars parked in bike lanes, while super-aggressive drivers constantly cut me off when I should have the right of way. But, as Critical Mass philosophizes, when enough bikers are on the streets, drivers will have to pay attention. And it looks like we're getting there: according to city stats, New York now has more than 15,000 daily bicycle commuters — meaning bike traffic has more than doubled in the past 4 years. Okay, that's still less than 0.2% of New York's population, so we've got a ways to go; but the momentum is huge!

Culturally, bikes are getting more and more attention, with indie fashion site Refinery29 blogging about favorite men's and women's bikes; NY Mag running an entire feature on bike commuting, complete with safety tips and gear recommendations; and the Times taking a humorous look at pedicabs. Next up: Biking to work without drivers yelling at me or trying to run me over. Well, we can always hope...

Streetsblog via PSFK | Photo via NY Times

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