Biking through New York City: A Greener and Safer Future

The sound of cars honking and drivers shouting in New York City streets is nothing unusual for residents living in the city. The traffic causes bus delays and leaves pedestrians wondering if walking would get them to their destination quicker. Cyclists become stuck between dozens of cars and try their best to squeeze in tight spaces, sometimes risking their safety. An accident or crash occurs during rush hour and then fights break out about who caused the incident.

Cycling throughout the years in NYC.

Over the past two decades, New York City had a huge growth in cycling throughout the boroughs. Knowing who is biking and how often New Yorkers do so is important for the Department of Transporation to find out where to implement new bike lanes. On a typical day, 490,000 cycling trips take place in the city. It has only increased since the start of the pandemic in early March. Ciki bikes alone saw an increase of the bike usage by sixty-seven percent compared to a year ago.

According to a graph done by the NYC Department of Transporation that shows how many people living in cities cycle to work, NYC grew two times faster than other cities. The percent growth from the years 2012-2017 grew fifty-five percent in NYC. In another graph that looks at the cycling trends on NYC Bridges, the Queensborough Bridge was the most popular for New Yorkers. Between 2013-2018 there was a nineteen percent growth of cyclists using the bridge to get to Manhattan.

Increase of Bike Usage.

Before the pandemic struck New York City, the streets were already in chaos. There was too much congestion and not enough bike lanes to protect the increasing number of cyclists. When the city became the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, residents began using bikes more instead of taking the subway or bus.

Bike sales have increased in New York City and nationwide since the beginning of the pandemic. Bike shops have seen business booming such as Belittle Bicycles, a bike shop in Queens, New York. According to a New York Times report, the 102-year-old bike shop has lived through the Spanish Flu in 1918 and the Great Depression. Now it is living through a pandemic that popularized bikes. As a result, there is a shortage of bikes, bike parts, and accessories.

As a response to the pandemic, New York has been working on opening up more miles on streets for cyclists only. Pop-up bike lanes have appeared in places like Astoria to give cyclists more open space for transportation. With more cyclists taking on the city streets, the big question is whether or not New York City is ready to become a biking city.

More than 1.6 million New Yorkers rode bikes in 2019.  The number has only increased with the current pandemic. Most residents living in New York City do not own cars or cannot afford to buy one.

The Queens Ribbon Project.

Samuel I. Schwartz, a former city traffic commissioner, proposed a new project that can expand biking and walking options in the city. The construction of a new bridge connecting Midtown Manhattan to Long Island City called “The Queens Ribbon” will cost an estimate of $100 million. The bridge will also go through Roosevelt Island. Schwartz envisions the bridge as a narrow, thin line that measures twenty feet wide, built across the East River.

The T.Y Lin International engineering firm designed the Queens Ribbon that will be of great value to New Yorkers once the pandemic is over but will also provide a new means of transportation when future crises occur. The bridge will have elevator access to the Cornell Tech Campus in Roosevelt as well.

 The Queens Ribbon will also attract tourists and New Yorkers with the captivating views from the bridge. The construction of the bridge can also help create new construction jobs which, can contribute to the city’s economic recovery. When coming up with the funds for the bridge, the TY Lin International Group website writes, “the Queens Ribbon will be a small investment to make when compared to the savings that will be derived from reduced pollution and traffic.”

The Five Borough Bikeway

The Regional Plan Association created a network known as The Five Borough Bikeway for New York City. The network consists of 425 miles of bike lanes scattered throughout every borough. The bike lanes can provide safe and protected bike lanes for pedestrians who are increasingly using bikes to run errands or travel to work.

According to the Regional Plan Association, the Five Borough Bikeway Plan will also help NYC recover economically. Being able to reach people from all five boroughs, including low-income communities, will allow more workers to reconnect with their jobs. A task force will also be created to attract new cyclists that come from different races and all ages. Some of the benefits that the Bikeway can bring to the New York Community include:

  • Increasement of bike usage
  • The reduction of air pollution, meaning there will be cleaner air in the city.
  • Less car traffic in the city streets
  • Less car accidents and conflicts between cyclists, cars, and pedestrians.

The Regional Plan Association mentions in their website, “NYC needs creative ways to bounce back and to invest in a greener future.” The current pandemic has proven this to be true and, with an increase of safe bike lanes, NYC can become the leading city with the most bike usage. The Bikeway project can help lessen congestion in the streets and lower air pollution in the city.

Bikes In the Future.

There is no doubt that future pandemics and disasters will occur. The coronavirus pandemic raised fears about taking public transportation. While the NYC Department of Transportation has added painted bike lanes, there needs to be permanent solutions for cyclists to guarantee their safety.

Only forty-five percent of NYC residents own a car, yet the streets are filled with commercial vehicles and private cars. The city is not one hundred percent bike friendly. It is one of the reasons some New Yorkers are hesitant to ride a bike in the first place. With projects such as the Queens Ribbon and The Five Borough Bikeway, biking can be taken to levels never seen before in New York City.

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