De Blasio Administration Backtracks From Cycling Mode Share Goal

It looks like the de Blasio administration has quietly tamped down its promises for increasing how much people bike in New York City.

Bill de Blasio's new goals for bicycling aren't as ambitious as his old goals for bicycling. Photo: Juha Uitto/Flickr
Bill de Blasio’s new goals for bicycling aren’t as ambitious as his old goals for bicycling. Photo: Juha Uitto/Flickr

During the 2013 race for mayor, candidate Bill de Blasio issued a policy book that included a goal of 6 percent bicycle mode share for all trips citywide by 2020. That’s a lofty goal, and a difficult one to measure: Currently, around 1 percent of city residents commute primarily by bicycle, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Those stats capture only work commutes, which NYC DOT says typically cover 20 percent or fewer of all trips.

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg stuck by the 6 percent promise when Bicycling Magazine named New York the nation’s best city for bicycling last September: “The de Blasio administration is moving forward with our own bike initiatives, to meet the mayor’s very ambitious goal of increasing the share of all trips in New York City taken by bike to six percent by 2020,” she said. “Do not worry. We will not rest on past accomplishments.”

At a bicycling forum later that month, Trottenberg again mentioned 6 percent — but referred to “doubling” trips, a less definitive and less ambitious benchmark. “By our measure, the actual percentage of trips taken in the city by bike is now like one and a half percent,” she said. “The previous mayor, I think, had pledged to double it. Our mayor promised to double it again.”

At the forum, Trottenberg also said the city needs to improve the way it counts cyclists. Currently, DOT relies on screenline counts of cyclists accessing Manhattan below 60th Street, leaving out most travel within the Manhattan core and in the other four boroughs. “There’s no question, we’re probably going to need to up our ability to count [cyclists] around the city,” Trottenberg said last September. “I have to confess, we have not fully figured out how we’re going to do that.”

After prodding from Streetsblog earlier this month, DOT released the latest edition of its screenline count, which it refers to as the “In-Season Cycling Indicator.” While the report now features data from automated counters on the East River bridges, it did not update the city’s counting methodology to include trips outside or within the Manhattan core.

The One New York plan, an outline of the de Blasio administration’s sustainability and equity goals, mentioned “the City’s goal of doubling the Cycling Indicator by 2020” [PDF]. It didn’t cite a 6 percent mode share goal.

During the RPA Assembly last week, I asked Trottenberg to clarify the city’s bicycling goals. “Doubling, I think, is our mode share goal,” she said. “I’m going to go with what OneNYC says. That’s our latest manifesto.”

“So, not six percent?” I asked.

“I’m going to go with doubling,” Trottenberg replied.

When asked if the city is still aiming to achieve 6 percent mode share for bicycling, a DOT spokesperson said the agency has a goal of doubling its cycling indicator numbers by 2020.