BOOM! New Citi Bike Stats Show Cycling Surge is Real — But Mayor is Not Acting

Photo: Lyft
Photo: Lyft

Citi Bike officials revealed today that customers have taken 67 percent more rides so far this March, compared to the same, coronavirus-free period last year — a huge increase that puts pressure on City Hall to implement emergency measures to ensure the safety of cyclists, some of whom are new to New York’s roadways.

According to the Lyft-owned company, Citi Bike handled 517,768 rides from March 1 through March 11, up from 310,132 during the same period last year and 287,218 the year before — meaning Citi Bike’s members and single-day riders took 80 percent more rides this month than they did during the same period of March, 2018.

The boom comes partly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has encouraged elected officials to tell New Yorkers to avoid the subways and buses. Mayor de Blasio himself asked New Yorkers to bike to work in a tweet on Sunday.

Even though the mayor said he would not bike himself, his words had impact. In addition to the Citi Bike spike, bike traffic on New York City’s DOT-run bridges are up 34 to 54 percent so far this March compared to last March (some of that boom is weather-related and also due to the fact that there are more Citi Bikes available now, including the company’s e-bikes, which returned on Feb. 19).

Traffic on the Brooklyn Greenway is also way up, the greenway posted on Twitter:

Taken together, the Citi Bike ridership increase and the city’s own numbers may put further pressure on Mayor de Blasio to follow up on recommendations by Transportation Alternatives to make streets safer for the new riders. The group called on the mayor to:

  • create a zero tolerance policy on vehicles — city-owned, private, or commercial — blocking bike lanes, and cease any cycling-specific NYPD ticket stings. (The mayor said earlier this year that he would create a Vision Zero Unit within the NYPD, but no details of that unit, or its efforts, have been provided.)
  • build pop-up bike lanes, like those deployed during the UN General Assembly last September, “since the Green Wave plan can’t be implemented overnight,” Harris said.
  • quickly reconfigure key East River crossings, including dedicated, separated cycling paths on the Brooklyn and Queensboro bridges. The Queensboro Bridge is especially crowded because pedestrians and cyclists share a single path on the north side of the bridge. The numbers of walkers and cyclists were increasing on that span even before the current crisis.
  • fast-track permitting and construction of sidewalk and on-street bike parking, and require that office buildings allow employees to enter with bikes
  • expedite the expansion of Citi Bike in underserved neighborhoods, roll out more stations and bike valets in Manhattan’s Central Business District, and subsidize a Citi Bike discount program to incentivize new riders.

Members of Community Board 7 on the Upper West Side also demanded that the mayor act. And activists have also called on the MTA to allow cycling on its bridges during the crisis.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the mayor said only that he would “look at” the TransAlt recommendations. City Hall has not commented since.

But cycling advocates believe the mayor is acting too slowly.

“The city has a playbook for transportation in a crisis,” said Jon Orcutt of Bike New York. “We’ve seen it during transit strikes, in blackouts and after 9-11 and Hurricane Sandy. It’s basically cops and cones to mark off immediate new lanes, while DOT looks to accelerate key pieces of its pipeline like Sixth Avenue.”

We’ve reached out to City Hall and will have more to add to this breaking story.

In the meantime, our parody singers, The Speeders, have recorded a new song in response to Mayor de Blasio’s inability to lead by example by riding to work or make the roadways safer. Lyrics are below (trigger warning: the song is not meant to make light of the pandemic, but only to satirize Mayor de Blasio’s response to the city’s growing transportation needs. The reference to ebola stems from a particularly odd comment by President Trump):

The mayor said on Sunday that we all should just bike
Please avoid the trains there’s somethin’ goin’ ’round worse then Ebola

We asked him to construct new biking lanes
‘Cause there’d be more people riding now — it’s corona
C-Apostrophe ona
C-Apostrophe ona

Got driven to the gym in his big S-U-V
We asked him to bike, he said, “Don’t give me that crapola

Some say we’re dumb but we can’t comprehend
Why he preaches Vision Zero but ain’t a bike’s friend

Well, we drank caffeine and wrote all night
Posted our stories, kept up the fight
He pulled it up first thing in the morn’
Said “Friggin’ Gersh, won’t you leave me alone!”

Well we are the world’s most passionate blog
And when we heard “Vision Zero”
Well we almost fell
For De-Blasio-Ah

We asked him again
We tagged him in tweets
“Please fix up our streets!”
We got down on our knees
We said we’d bring our bikes up to Gracie

Here’s the way that we want it to be
Bicyclists and pedestrians should get all the street

Bikes will be bikes and cars will be cars
But when the drivers kill people they should be behind bars

Well we’ve been biking 10 years or more
But we’ve never had to teach a mayor before
We looked at Bill and swallowed up our pride.
“Come on, Mister Mayor, lets go for a ride!”

Well, some will say that our logic is flawed
But we know what we know and the mayor’s a fraud