Cycling Is Up Across the Board in NYC, But Not Without Disparities

Chart: NYC Department of Health [PDF]

The number of New Yorkers who regularly ride a bike has risen markedly in recent years, and the trend is especially pronounced among high school students, according to a report published today by the Department of Health [PDF]. While the general upward trend cuts across gender, race, and income levels, the data also show that the growth in cycling is more pronounced among more affluent households than poorer households, and that fewer black New Yorkers bike regularly compared to white or Latino New Yorkers.

From 2007 to 2014, the share of adults who report biking at least once a month rose from 12 percent to 16 percent, and from 2009 to 2013, the share of high school students who report biking rose from 17 percent to 25 percent.

The report is based on two broad surveys that include questions about cycling activity. One of the surveys samples 9,000 adults each year, and the other is completed by about 10,000 high school students every two years.

Cycling activity rose in every borough except the Bronx, with the largest gain in Manhattan, where the share of adults who cycle at least once a month rose from 12 to 22 percent. Regular cycling increased from 12 to 16 percent in Brooklyn, 12 to 15 percent in Queens, and 10 to 13 percent on Staten Island.

“This report shows that not only are more and more New Yorkers cycling, but that the increases are widespread,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett in a statement. “We will continue our work with DOT and community partners to promote safe active transportation across the five boroughs.”

A gap has opened up, however, between the most affluent households and other households. Among households earning at least four times the federal poverty line, the prevalence of regular cycling increased from 13 percent to 21 percent. Cycling increased among all other households, but not as much, and the prevalence of regular cycling now stands between 13 and 15 percent for other income tiers.

Advocates don’t think it’s a coincidence that the highest rates of cycling tend to be in areas where protected bike lanes are more prevalent. “When you’re looking at low-income neighborhoods, the ridership report makes it clear that the mayor needs to double down investment in building bike lanes,” Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro told AMNY.

Broken down by race, the share of white adults who ride at least once per month rose from 13 to 19 percent, the share of black adults from 10 to 13 percent, and the share of Latino adults from 13 to 17 percent. Among black high school students, regular cycling is more common (24 percent in 2013, up from 16 percent in 2009), though still lower than among Latino students (26 percent, up from 18) and white students (30 percent, up from 20).

A gender gap persists as well, despite increases in cycling among women and men. The share of adult women who bike regularly increased from 7 to 10 percent, while share of adult men rose from 18 to 23 percent. For high school students, the increase was from 11 to 14 percent among girls, from 24 to 36 percent among boys.