New York City – a safe place to bike?

Could New York, a city known for its streets full of aggressive and crazy drivers actually become a safe place to ride a bike?

The answer appears to be yes.  The department of transportation (DOT) is committed to making cycling safe and convenient in the Big Apple. The biggest and most densely populated city in the United States has been losing vehicular lanes – one of it’s scarcest resources – and getting cycling lanes in return.  The administration is also adding thousands of secure bike parking spots, providing an excellent website with cycling information and creating Citi Bike, their version of BIXI that will roll out 10,000 bikes and 600 stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens starting next March.

Well designed, safe and inexpensive cycling lanes are being added to streets all over New York City.  A common bike path on the streets of New York is the one-way, buffered path located between the sidewalk and parked cars (as seen below).  This path is inexpensive to install since it only requires green and white paint.  The path is also very safe to use: the buffered section on the right of the path protects cyclists from open doors on the driver’s side of the parked cars; and the placement of the path, between the sidewalk and the parked cars, gives cyclists insulation from the two lanes of car traffic.

Buffered bike path on Avenue A in Manhattan, New York

The department of transportation (DOT) is also adding thousands of beautifully designed bike racks across the city.  These racks prevent a locked bike from falling over as they are designed to come into contact with the bike frame in numerous spots.  The classic bike rack in Montreal – the parking meter stand with the circular bar around it – only has one point where it comes into contact with a bike.  As a result, bikes regularly slip and fall onto the sidewalk, blocking pedestrians and often causing damage to the bike.

NYC bike rack
Montreal bike rack.

New York City has a lot of progress to make when it comes to cycling safety.  Although cycling accidents and casualties have dropped roughly 50% in the past ten years, there were nonetheless 18 cycling deaths in 2010.  The DOT, however, appears to be taking all the right steps to improve cycling and pedestrian safety.  They have created (and are continuing to create) safe cycling infrastructure and secure bike parking.  They are launching Citi Bike – a bike sharing program that will be twice the size of Bixi when it rolls out next spring.  They are compiling cycling and pedestrian accident data to better understand which intersections need upgrading.  They have undertaken an education program to teach safe cycling, walking and driving practices to children and adults.  Lastly, they have created an excellent website with cycling and bike parking maps, safety tips as well as other information for cyclists.  The website even allows users to report a damaged bike rack or suggest a new location for one.

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One thought on “New York City – a safe place to bike?

  1. Janette Sadik-Khan is doing amazing work. Her ability to get things done in the slow-moving institution of the New York City bureaucracy is commendable. Luc Ferrandez of Plateau Mont-Royal can only do so much. He needs buy-in from the Ville de Montréal. JSK has shown big changes can happen quickly with enough will power. Hopefully someone will step up here in Montreal.

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