When you imagine a bike friendly city, Copenhagen or Amsterdam likely comes to mind first. Virtually flat, with mile after mile of protected bike lanes, these two European cities took the top two spots in the most recent ranking of the world’s best cities for cycling. As for New York City? It didn’t break into the top 20.
But it’s trying to change that. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic caused bike ridership levels to spike, cycling advocates have pushed to make the city more bike friendly. Since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014, the city’s department of transportation has expanded the Citi Bike bike share program and created a $58.4 million bike safety plan, which has added 120 miles of protected bike lanes to keep cyclists separate from cars on roads. Of the 6,300 miles of streets in the entire city, there are currently 1,375 miles of bike lanes, 545 of which are protected lanes.
Soon it will get even more. On Thursday, January 28, Mayor de Blasio announced plans for a two-way lane just for cyclists to be added to the Brooklyn Bridge by the end of 2021. While it’s currently possible to bike across the bridge that connects lower Manhattan to Brooklyn, it’s a harrowing experience. Located in the center of the bridge above the car lanes, the narrow promenade is shared by cyclists and pedestrians alike. While pedestrians are supposed to stay on one side of the pathway with cyclists on the other, the crowds that accumulate on weekends and during the summer often mean that cyclists have to dodge pedestrians standing or walking in the bike lane and vice versa.
The new protected bike lane will be created once cars are banned from the innermost lane of the Manhattan-bound side of the bridge and a two-foot barrier is erected to separate cars from cyclists. Once that happens, the upper promenade will be for pedestrians only.
Slightly farther north, the Queensboro Bridge will have its current combined bike-pedestrian lane turned into a bike-only lane. The southern outer road, which is currently used for cars, will be converted into a pedestrian-only pathway to ease the flow of noncar traffic across the bridge that connects Midtown Manhattan with Long Island City, Queens.
This is all welcome news for locals and visitors alike since biking is becoming a more and more popular way to move around the city. Prepandemic, more than 2 million New Yorkers rode a bike at least once a year in the city—approximately 33 percent of the city’s adult population—according to a 2019 Citywide Mobility Survey. As people looked for alternatives to public transportation during the pandemic, bike ridership levels spiked across the city. In November 2020, almost 500,000 people biked across the city’s East River bridges, compared to just over 323,000 in November 2019—an increase of 55 percent.
If you plan on joining the biking boom the next time you visit New York, be sure to follow these biking laws as posted on the NYC DOT website:
- Ride in the street, not on the sidewalks
- Ride with traffic, not against it
- Stop at red lights and stop signs
- Use marked bike lanes or paths when available
- Use a white headlight and a red taillight (Citi Bikes have these built in)
- Cross the intersection when the pedestrian signal shows the “walk” signal