Spring Bike Counts Show Steady Growth of 14 Percent

The growth of cycling in New York City shows no signs of letting up. The Department of Transportation’s latest count of cyclists entering the center of the city posted a 14 percent increase this spring compared to last spring. If the trend holds up for the rest of 2011, it will mark the fifth consecutive year of double digit growth.

“More and more New Yorkers are choosing to get around town by bicycle, and by creating more bike lanes, we’re giving New Yorkers the option to safely choose to bike,” said Mayor Bloomberg in a statement. “It’s the City’s responsibility to adjust to trends in commuting and ensure our streets are safe for everyone on the road, and by improving our street network and strengthening enforcement of traffic laws, we’ve made our streets safer than ever – for everyone.”

As noted by Andrea Bernstein at Transportation Nation, the new numbers were released by the mayor’s office, not the Department of Transportation. That, along with Bloomberg’s statement, is an encouraging sign that the mayor is embracing the increase in cycling as a major achievement — perhaps in recognition of the broad public support for expanding the bike network.

According to the DOT count, the number of commuter cyclists this spring rose 62 percent compared to the spring of 2008. Since 2000, the number has increased by 262 percent. Until now the city has released the annual screenline counts all at once each fall. DOT says they will now release the counts more frequently. One thing to look for in the next release: How the Manhattan Bridge bike detour, which includes several harrowing blocks on the Bowery, is affecting bike commuting over that bridge and the nearby Brooklyn Bridge.

The screenline count, which the city has been collecting for decades, has its advantages and disadvantages. By counting the number of cyclists crossing the East River bridges, on the Hudson River Greenway at 50th Street, and at the Staten Island Ferry, the city captures a certain set of trips that doesn’t necessarily reflect the full citywide picture.

Census data actually showed cycling decreasing citywide in 2008 and 2009, but the Census has its own flaws. It only tracks people’s primary commuting mode, hiding non-work trips and people who commute by bike less than half the time. The numbers DOT announced today, in contrast, count actual, observed bike trips.